The suit charges American Electric Power Co., Cinergy Corp., FirstEnergy Corp., Illinois Power, Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co., Southern Co. and Tampa Electric Co., as well as the Tennessee Valley Authority, the federal agency that oversees the companies` plants, with violating the Clean Air Act by making major modifications to their plants without installing the proper equipment required to control smog, acid rain and soot.
Georgia Power`s Response to lawsuit:
1) We know people have questions about our impact on the environment. Thats why, since 1990 alone, we have eliminated 20 percent of total NOx emissions and 30 percent of total SO2 emissions.
2) Everyone deserves a cleaner environment. Thats why, on average, every kilowatt-hour we generate is cleaner than the year before. In this decade, Southern Company has invested more than $4 billion on reducing emissions and on other environmental programs. Our employees and customers expect us to have that kind of commitment to the environment and we expect that of ourselves.
3) We are disappointed with EPAs actions. We have been working closely with them over the past 18 months, providing more than 120,000 pages of records.
Additional Background and Response
We are extremely disappointed that EPA has decided to take legal action under the Clean Air Act against Southern Company, and we are confident that there is no substantive basis for this enforcement action. We do not agree with EPA`s allegation - that by maintaining our power plants well, we have created a "new source" of pollution.
During the past year, Southern Company officials have worked closely with EPA officials to examine more than 20 years of operating history at a number of our generating facilities in the southeast. We have also provided more than 120,000 pages of documentation and have been in constant contact to answer questions in an effort to be up front and open. Our goal throughout this process has been to cooperate with EPA and find a workable solution to this issue.
EPA`s enforcement initiative -- based on a regulatory program under the Clean Air Act -- deals with the level and amount of maintenance and construction that can occur at an existing generating facility before it triggers the definition of "modified" source of emissions. A "modified" source is required to obtain permits from the EPA and must retrofit the same pollution control technology, as that required of a brand new plant.
Under a provision in the Clean Air Act, utilities can perform routine maintenance on existing facilities such as repair and replacement of equipment. Congress, by including this provision, recognized the need that the industry had to maintain its existing generating facilities.
We have an obligation -- by law -- to provide electricity to our customers that is safe, reliable and efficient. In order to meet that obligation, Southern Company has a duty to replace, repair, and maintain equipment at its generating facilities. The EPA has been fully aware of our industry`s repair and maintenance practices during the past 20 years, and has never raised a question with respect to these practices under the Clean Air Act.
Last year, EPA proposed a rule to take away many of the exemptions from the definition of "modification". That change, if finalized, would make it more likely that the routine work of maintaining a power plant would trigger the more stringent requirements. After 20 years, EPA wants to change the way they interpret the rules that these plants were licensed -- and have operated -- under.