The Tampa Electric Co. will significantly reduce harmful air pollution as part of a $1 billion renovation of two aging coal burning power plants under a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In November 1999, the government charged that Tampa Electric and six other utilities violated the law at their power plants by making major modifications to the plants without installing equipment required to control smog, acid rain and soot.
The settlement filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Tampa is unprecedented in its scope, and marks a major step in EPA's ongoing effort to stop pollution illegally released from coal-fired power plants.
"The Tampa Electric settlement ensures the greatest possible protection of public health from air pollution for Floridians and their environment," said EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner. "We are hopeful that other utilities will follow Tampa Electric example, and help bring similar clean-air benefits to many other areas in this country."
Under the settlement, Tampa Electric will pay a $3.5 million civil penalty for past pollution and will invest $10 million in environmental mitigation and short-term pollution control measures.
The utility will also switch one of the two plants -- the Gannon Station -- from coal to natural gas and install new pollution devices to curtail emissions at the other plant, known as Big Bend.
The changes, when fully implemented by 2010, are expected to cost approximately $1 billion, according to EPA. But they will also result in a reduction of more than 120,000 tons of smog-causing and acid-rain causing chemical releases annually by the end of the decade.
The settlement is the first result from seven lawsuits filed last November.
The United States also brought actions against American Electric Power, FirstEnergy, Illinois Power, Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Co., Cinergy, and the Southern Co.
According to EPA, the lawsuits assert that these power plants have illegally released massive amounts of air pollutants, contributing to some of the most severe environmental problems facing the nation today.
This enforcement initiative targeted a total of 17 coal-fired power plants located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.