[http://tlpj.org/top_720.htm]
[http://tlpj.org/left_nav_interior.htm]

 

News header

TLPJ and Ohio Residents Sue to Reduce Toxic Pollution from State's Largest Power Plant 

Residents Report Health Effects from Coal-Fired Power Plant Emissions

AEP's coal-fired power plant in Cheshire, Ohio releases up to 32 tons per day of sulfuric acid mist, a toxic pollutant.
This coal-fired power plant in Cheshire, Ohio releases up to 32 tons per day of sulfuric acid mist, a toxic pollutant.

Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (TLPJ) filed a lawsuit in federal court on May 12, 2004 on behalf of 82 Ohio residents to force American Electric Power Company (AEP), the nationís largest electric utility, to reduce the amount of sulfuric acid mist it emits from the 830-foot-high smokestacks at its largest coal-fired power plant, the Gen. James A. Gavin Power Plant in Cheshire, Ohio. Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive and toxic chemical that is a byproduct of burning coal. The Gavin Plant burns 10 billion pounds of high-sulfur coal per year.

After AEP installed new equipment in May 2001 intended to reduce pollution at the Gavin Plant, sulfuric acid emissions skyrocketed. Blue acid aerosol plumes from the Plant intermittently touched down in the neighborhood near the Plant. After an investigation, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concluded that the plumes were a public health hazard to Cheshire residents. In 2002, AEP bought out the Village of Cheshire for $20 million and demolished most of its houses. But many families remain near the plant. They still suffer health problems, such as sore throats, mouth sores, eye irritation, difficulty breathing, and headaches from exposure to the Plantís fumes. Eighty-two of these residents have joined together in a group called Citizens Against Pollution (CAP) to fight for clean air in their community.

"Although the Gavin Plantís toxic pollution is harming us and our children, the regulatory agencies have failed to protect us," said Paul Stinson, CAPís President. "We filed this citizen suit to protect our familiesí health and to hold American Electric Power Company responsible for polluting the air we breathe with sulfuric acid."

CAPís lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Columbus, alleges that AEP has violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by releasing amounts of sulfuric acid mist that are a "substantial and imminent endangerment" to public health. A recent internal Ohio Environmental Protection Agency modeling analysis estimates that concentrations of sulfuric acid near the Gavin Plant exceed the stateís health standards. CAP is seeking an injunction requiring AEP to stop endangering public health.

"Coal-fired power plants are the nationís largest air polluters, and the Gavin Plant is Ohioís biggest and one of its dirtiest polluters."

The suit also alleges that AEP has violated two other federal statutes, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund), and the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). If a facility releases more than 1,000 pounds per day of sulfuric acid, it has to report those releases promptly to federal and local agencies so that the government can respond and the public knows of the potential hazard. The lawsuit alleges that AEP has failed to report its releases and has improperly claimed it is eligible for a reporting exemption for "continuous" releases that are "stable in quantity and rate." While claiming stability, AEP says that it emits between zero and 64,000 pounds per day of sulfuric acid. CAP contends that AEPís releases are unstable and must be reported on a daily basis so residents can promptly know what is in the air that they are breathing. CAP is seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties payable to the government on these claims. CAP is not seeking damages for personal injuries on any of its claims.

"AEP is trying to evade accountability by shirking its duty to file a report for each day that it emits more than 1,000 pounds of sulfuric acid," said co-counsel Jim Hecker, TLPJís Environmental Enforcement Director. "Coal-fired power plants are the nationís largest air polluters, and the Gavin Plant is Ohioís biggest and one of its dirtiest polluters."

TLPJís co-counsel in the case are Jim Ferraro of Ferraro & Associates in Miami, Florida and Brian Glasser of Bailey & Glasser in Charleston, West Virginia. A copy of the complaint in Citizens Against Pollution v. American Electric Power Company is posted on TLPJís web site at www.tlpj.org.

[http://tlpj.org/cpyrt_720.htm]