GenOn Northeast Management Co., the operator of a coal-fired power plant located near Pittsburgh, has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a lawsuit that alleges its discharges of potentially-toxic metals helped pollute a river and violated its permits thousands of times. The proposed settlement was filed in a Pittsburgh federal court. It now awaits approval from the judge and the federal government. If approved, this would bring to a close a 2007 lawsuit over discharges from the Conemaugh Generation Station.
The 1,700-megawatt coal-fired power plant sits on the Conemaugh River, about 50 miles east of Pittsburgh. Since at least 2005, the plant violated the federal Clean Water Act “practically every day” by discharging excessive amounts of aluminum, boron, iron, manganese and selenium in the approximately 2 million gallons of water it dumped into the Conemaugh each day, according to PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club, the environmental advocacy groups that filed lawsuit. PennEnvironment’s executive director, David Masur, had this to say in a statement:
While this historic penalty will send a strong message to other companies in Pennsylvania and throughout the region, it is equally important that the company is now committed, at long last, to complying with its legal discharge limits and to reducing its pollution of the Conemaugh River. This was a David and Goliath-style fight — and the `Davids’ were able to deliver a critical victory to the people of Pennsylvania.
GenOn Northeast is a subsidiary of Houston-based GenOn Energy Inc., which is a part-owner of the plant, along with Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. of Newark, N.J., Constellation Energy Group Inc. of Baltimore and others. GenOn Energy is one of the largest power plant owners in the United States. It has an ownership stake in 18 power plants in Pennsylvania alone. The environmental groups say that some of the metals are toxic, and can harm aquatic life in a river already damaged by acidic drainage from coal mines.
The $3.75 million portion of the settlement is the largest penalty in Pennsylvania history against a water polluter under the citizen enforcement provision of the federal Clean Water Act. The breakdown is $3.5 million to support environmental cleanups in the Conemaugh River watershed, with $250,000 as a civil penalty. GenOn also must pay $1.25 million for the groups’ legal expenses.
Source: Associated Press
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