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Utilities Lobby for Relief from Clean-Air Lawsuits

Utilities Lobby for Relief from Clean-Air Lawsuits

Utility companies were close to conceding defeat late last week in their effort to get an amendment attached to a congressional spending bill that would absolve them of prosecution under the clean-air lawsuits bought by the Justice Department on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month (See NGI, Nov. 8).

"The prospects for this happening are not good. These lawsuits were announced on Nov. 3rd. I think the odds against this [amendment] getting folded into a spending bill were not good from the beginning," said Jim Owen, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which represents investor-owned utilities.

Both Attorney General Janet Reno and EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner urged Capitol Hill lawmakers last week not to approve legislative language that would "effectively immunize these [utility] companies from continuing responsibility for their unlawful conduct and authorize additional violations in the future."

On Nov. 3, Justice brought lawsuits citing 17 coal-fired plants at seven utilities --- American Electric Power, Cinergy, FirstEnergy, Illinois Power, Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co., Southern Co. and Tampa Electric Co. Also, an administrative complaint was filed against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for pollution-control violations at seven of its power plants, and notices of violations were issued to eight other coal-fired facilities.

The coal-fired facilities, which were grandfathered under the Clean Air Act (CAA), were accused of violating the act by making major modifications to their plants without installing the appropriate pollution-control technology.

Susan Parker

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