The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has agreed to pay a $450,000 civil penalty to resolve allegations made by the Environmental Protection Agency that it violated the federal Clean Air Act at one of its facilities.
The TVA – a not-for-profit energy corporation owned by the U.S. government – was accused by the EPA of leaching unpermitted sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the air at its Widow Creek Power Plant in Stevenson, Ala.
Following what the EPA called “ongoing and pervasive” duct leaks from Unit 7 at the Widows Creek facility, the agency alleged various violations of the Clean Air Act. The leaks were not adequately repaired and that allowed the dangerous gases to escape into the atmosphere from 2002 through 2005, the EPA alleged.
The alleged violations include:
- failure to maintain pollution control devices as required by permit;
- failure to comply with acid rain requirements, 40 C.F.R. Part 75, and
- failure to report non-compliance with the acid rain program as part of the required title V annual certifications in 2004-2005.
As part of the settlement, the TVA voluntarily agreed to surrender 931 sulfur dioxide allowances and 13 nitrogen oxide allowances under the EPA’s cap and trade programs for nitrogen and acid rain. This will result in the elimination of 931 tons of sulphur dioxide and 13 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions to the atmosphere that would otherwise be permissible.
High concentrations of the gases, both key pollutants emitted from coal fired utility units, can have adverse impacts on human health, and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog, and haze.
The acid rain program was established under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and requires significant emission reductions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide from the electric power industry. The program sets a permanent cap on the total amount of sulphur dioxide that may be emitted by electric generating units in the United States, and includes provisions for trading and banking emission allowances.
On Wednesday the EPA proposed new national limits on the levels of toxic emissions, including sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, chromium, nickel and mercury, that can be released by power plants. The new regulations would require many power plants to install pollution control technologies.
A group of energy utility companies said in a report this week that the proposals proposed an “extraordinary threat” to the sector. “The EPA admits the pending proposal will cost at least $10 billion, making it one of the most expensive rules in the history of the agency,” the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council said, according to the New York Times.
“Adaptation to all the proposed rules constitutes an extraordinary threat to the power sector — particularly the half of U.S. electricity derived from coal-fired generation,” the group added.