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Health and Environmental Groups Announce Intent to Sue Illinois Coal Plant Owners for Violating Clean Air Act

CHICAGO, July 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being issued by the Environmental Law & Policy Center:

A coalition of Illinois health and environmental groups notified Midwest Generation, LLC of their intent to sue the company because its coal plants release illegally high amounts of particulate matter that leads to respiratory illnesses and premature deaths in nearby communities. The suit follows a number of air pollution-related citations from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against Midwest Generation's coal plants in the state, particularly the Fisk and Crawford Generating Stations located within the Chicago city limits.

The coalition members, Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, The Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago and Sierra Club, filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue today, the first step in a Clean Air Act citizen suit. This action brings a new legal development in an ongoing campaign by environmental, health and community groups representing the communities in which the coal plants are located. All of the plants are located in working class and/or minority neighborhoods.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have found that pollution from 9 coal plants in northern Illinois causes 311 premature deaths, 4,100 emergency room visits, and 21,500 asthma attacks annually. Midwest Generation owns coal plants in Chicago, Waukegan, Joliet, Romeoville and Pekin, Illinois.

The potential lawsuit focuses on the coal plants' opacity violations. Opacity is a measurement of the amount of light blocked by particulate matter coming from smokestacks. Particulate matter is fine dust and soot that stays close to the plant and concentrates negative air quality and health effects in nearby communities. EPA issued a notice of violation to Midwest Generation in August 2007 but has failed to take meaningful action to force clean ups at the plants and has allowed the plants to continue violating the law for the past two years.

Because of their age, Midwest Generation's coal plants are subject to more lenient opacity regulations than more modern plants. But Midwest's Generation's own reports document that all of the company's coal plants regularly violate even these relaxed opacity regulations. Installing modern pollution controls could greatly reduce particulate matter from these plants.

Comments from coalition members:

"C.A.R.E. has spent the last fourteen years fighting for the more stringent laws that are needed to protect citizens' health," stated Carol Stark, Director of Citizens Against Ruining the Environment - C.A.R.E. "After forty years of pollution from these dirty plants, it is time to say ENOUGH! Midwest Generation, do the right thing: correct the problem, or shut down!"

"For years, Midwest Generation has resisted installing pollution controls and violated federal laws in order to run these old, dirty plants as cheaply as possible," said Faith Bugel, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. "People living near these plants have to breathe polluted air because Midwest Generation wants to cut costs."

"These dirty coal plants are a threat to the public health and safety, as well as a liability to Illinois' clean energy future," said Henry Henderson, Director of the Midwest Program for NRDC. "Midwest Gen has not lived up to its obligation to the communities where their plants sit. It is well past time for them to cleanup or close for good."

"Even today, these ancient coal power plants continue to belch smoky black clouds in the heart of a major metropolis, putting millions of children, parents and grandparents at risk," stated Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs for Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago. "If these coal plants can't even comply with clean air laws from the 1970's they should be shut down and not allowed to operate until effective pollution controls are installed. No corporation should be above the law."

"Midwest Generation's free ride needs to stop," said James Gignac, Midwest Director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "Across the country, including right here in Illinois, Americans are saying they don't want dirty power from a greedy industry looking to skirt the rules. We want clean energy that will boost the economy, create jobs, and reduce our global warming pollution."

The Environmental Law and Policy Center is the Midwest's leading environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC) has been a local public health leader since 1906. Today the Association fights lung disease and promotes healthy lungs by supporting research, advocacy, and educational efforts on behalf of individuals and families affected by lung cancer, asthma, COPD (chronic bronchitis and emphysema), and other lung diseases.

The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Its Beyond Coal Campaign is working to retire old coal plants that are the worst contributors to health-harming soot and smog pollution and replace them with clean energy solutions.

SOURCE Environmental Law & Policy Center
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