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Westar Energy to spend about US$ 500 million to settle Clean Air Act violations

Oilfield Technology,

Westar Energy has agreed to spend approximately US$ 500 million to significantly reduce harmful air pollution from a Kansas power plant and pay a US$ 3 million civil penalty under a settlement to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act, the US EPA and the US Department of Justice have announced. As part of the settlement, Westar will also spend US$ 6 million on environmental mitigation projects.

The agreement, filed in federal court in Kansas, resolves violations of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements at the company’s Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant near St. Marys, Kansas.

Under the settlement, Westar will install and operate pollution control equipment at the Jeffrey Energy Center, which is expected to reduce combined emissions of SOx and NOx by roughly 78,600 tpa, 85% below 2007 emissions.  In addition, Westar will surrender surplus SOx allowances. These allowances cannot be used again, which means that the emissions will be permanently removed from the environment. Westar will also rebuild and optimise controls to reduce particulate matter emissions.

The settlement also requires Westar to spend US$ 6 million on projects to benefit the environment and mitigate the adverse effects of the alleged violations including the following:

  •       Retrofitting diesel engines on vehicles owned by or operated for public entities in Kansas with emission control equipment.
  •        Installing new wind turbines that will result in the reduction of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases, and provide electricity for the benefit of a school or nonprofit organisation.
  •       Installing advanced truck stop electrification to reduce harmful emissions from idling trucks.
  •        Installing plug-in hybrid infrastructure to facilitate the use of plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  •       Converting vehicles in Westar’s fleet to reduce pollution by retrofitting diesel vehicles with emission controls and purchasing hybrid vehicles.

In a complaint filed in February of 2009, the Government alleged that Westar modified all three units at the Jeffrey Energy Center, its largest coal-fired power plant, without installing required pollution control equipment or complying with applicable emission limits, in violation of the Clean Air Act.  The Government discovered the violations through an information request submitted to Westar.

The settlement is part of the EPA’s enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined SOx and NOx emission reductions secured from these settlements is more than 2 million tpa once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.

The state of Kansas joined the federal Government in the settlement.

The proposed settlement was lodged today in the US District Court for the District of Kansas and is subject to a 30 day public comment period and final court approval. 

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