Government Sues Electric Utilities

Article excerpt

Woodsy Owl used to tell television viewers to "give a hoot; don't pollute." So does the U.S. Department of Justice, but it has added far more clout to its warning than the cute little Forest Service icon could ever bring to bear.

The Justice Department filed seven lawsuits against electric utility companies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The lawsuits--filed on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-allege that 32 power plants did not receive pollution control upgrades required under the Clean Air Act and illegally released tens of millions of tons of air pollutants.

The lawsuits are the result of one of the largest enforcement investigations in EPA history. All of the electric plants charged with violations are older facilities that were "grandfathered" through pollution equipment requirements established when the act was amended in the late 1970s.

They were not expected to operate for a long period of time and were not required to have "best available control technology" equipment unless they underwent major modifications.

The federal government is charging that each of these plants underwent major modifications to extend their useful lives. …