Largest Utility in Kansas Will Pay $500 Million for Clean Air Violations
Westar Energy has settled an air pollution lawsuit brought by the federal government; the company will spend at least $500 million on equipment to reduce emissions at the Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant near St. Marys, Kansas.
The violations came to light after an information request was submitted to Westar. The government followed up by filing a complaint in February 2009, saying that Westar had modified all three units at the plant to produce more electricity but didn’t install required pollution control equipment.
“Today’s settlement sets the most stringent limit for sulfur dioxide emissions ever imposed on a coal-fired power plant in a federal settlement,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
As part of the settlement, Westar has agreed to pay a $3 million civil penalty – $2.75 million to the United States and $250,000 to the state of Kansas. Westar will also surrender their surplus sulfur dioxide allowances, and the company will fix controls meant to reduce particulate matter emissions. All told, the pollution control efforts should reduce combined emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by roughly 78,600 tons per year.
The proposed settlement was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas and is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
– Suzanne Bopp