Puget Sound Energy in Federal Court for Major Coal Pollution Violations
PSE and co-owners face hundreds of millions in potential fines and upgrades
SEATTLE, March 6, 2013 - Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Washington's largest utility, and its coal plant partners landed in federal court today for what the Sierra Club and the Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) call egregious violations of the federal Clean Air Act.
The Sierra Club and MEIC are seeking a court order requiring PSE and the other owners to install long-overdue modern pollution controls for its Colstrip coal plant in Montana and pay as much as $37,500 per day for their violations. The pollution control upgrades to meet modern standards can potentially cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Even with large investments in modern controls for traditional pollutants, the coal plant would still emit millions of tons of climate pollution, equivalent to three million cars a year.
"As a PSE customer, I don't want my energy bills going toward propping up the largest global warming polluter in Northwest history," said Erika Shriner, a Coal-Free PSE volunteer leader from Bainbridge Island. "We want to work with PSE and the community to build a clean energy future in which our hard-earned dollars are invested in clean wind, solar and energy efficiency right here in Washington."
Dozens of claims in the lawsuit point to continued operations of Colstrip after illegal alterations were made to the Colstrip plant without modernizing pollution controls. This fundamental requirement for modern controls ensures that older coal plants do not have an unfair advantage over newer plants with state-of-the-art pollution controls. "Across America utilities are transitioning from coal to clean energy, yet the Colstrip owners shovel customers' money into a Montana coal plant that is one of the largest polluters in the U.S.," said Bruce Nilles, national director for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "PSE's coal plant is a liability not just for them and their board, but also for the Washington families who will be asked to foot the bill for continued investment. As PSE develops its plan for the next 20 years, these liabilities must be considered as a cost of running its coal plant. Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign points to many successes in protecting climate and public health from the dangers of carbon pollution. With 142 coal plants now slated for retirement - including the last coal plants in Washington and Oregon - and 50,000 megawatts of wind production now on line, the campaign continues to hold big polluters accountable while working with utilities to transition to a sustainable energy future. "Today's legal action is the latest in our nationwide campaign targeting owners of the nation's aging coal fleet who continue to skirt their legal obligations. It's our national priority at the Sierra Club to uphold the health and environmental safeguards promised by the Clean Air Act for more than three decades," said Nilles. "When coal-owning utilities can no longer dump their pollution on unsuspecting customers for free, they realize sticking with coal is a gamble they can't afford to risk." PSE's coal plant is plagued with numerous other environmental hazards and violations including haze pollution, toxic coal ash waste ponds, and water pollution from the strip mine that provides coal to the plant.
"Big corporations like Puget Sound Energy might think their coal pollution problems are out of sight, but they're certainly not out of mind. In Montana, we suffer the firsthand consequences of having the toxic Colstrip plant within our borders," said Anne Hedges from MEIC. "That's why families from Washington and Montana are coming together to demand something better. We all deserve a sustainable and healthy energy future but we can only get there by replacing coal with clean energy."
Although PSE is the single largest owner of the Colstrip Generating Facility, they are not the only ones being charged with federal law violations. The other owners include high-profile companies like Warren Buffett's PacifiCorp, Avista, Portland General Electric, NorthWestern Energy and Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL).
Visit CoalFreePSE.org for more information.