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Source: Legislative Gazette

AG Schneiderman goes after PA power plant

Environmentalists are applauding Schneidermanís legal actions


Posted: January 18, 2011
Originally Published: January 18, 2011

Environmental advocates are praising Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's move to join Pennsylvania and federal prosecutors in a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania power plant accused of violating the federal Clean Air Act.

"The owners of this plant have repeatedly thumbed their noses at clean air laws, while dumping more than double the sulfur dioxide pollution into our air and lungs as all of the power plants in New York combined. Their disregard for New Yorkers is simply unconscionable," said Schneiderman, vowing he would be "holding the owners of the Homer City power plant accountable for breaking the law and polluting the air that New Yorkers breathe."

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, "We think this is a great indicator of an aggressive, assertive agenda by the attorney general. We need an attorney general who is going to protect our health and protect the public's interest."

Esposito was not alone in commending Schneiderman.

"This action by the attorney general will allow all New Yorkers to breathe easier and will help prevent lung disease and premature death for the most vulnerable," said Katherine Kennedy, counsel to the Air and Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Kennedy said Schneiderman's "early start to fighting for cleaner air is a welcome New Year's gift and a demonstration of his commitment to protecting New York's environment and public health."

Schneiderman took office on Jan. 1.

Adirondack Mountain Club Executive Director Neil Woodworth said acid rain, which can be a direct result of sulfur dioxide emissions, has decimated aquatic life in a quarter of the state's lakes and ponds in the Adirondack region and made trees more vulnerable to infestation and winter kill, when plants are not strong enough to survive freezing temperatures.

"Pollution from power plants like Homer City Station has had devastating impacts on the Adirondacks, the Catskills and other wild areas in the Northeast," said Woodworth. "Attorney General Schneiderman is getting off to an excellent start by taking action to reverse these impacts."

The plant is a coal-burning, electric-power generating facility roughly 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. The lawsuit against the plant was filed Jan. 6 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Schneiderman's office and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection filed a motion the same day to join the suit.

The lawsuit claims that upgrades at Homer City Station during the early 1990s failed to comply with federal statutes requiring such changes to be accompanied by modernized pollution control measures and seeks to force the plant to install such measures.

Esposito points out that such a high level of sulfur dioxide emissions has ramifications for New Yorkers and "directly impacts our public health, environment and economy."

"We end up with high levels of acidity in lakes and streams, and that kills fish, wildlife, birds and ecosystems. And that equates to diminished tourism and diminished home values," she says, explaining the effects on people breathing in the emissions include "asthma, lung diseases, respiratory ailments and, a lot of people don't know, heart attacks and premature death."