Power Pact Provisions Explained

FirstEnergy will pay $50,000 to settle suit

Morgantown Dominion Post
4 May 2012
By Michelle Wolford

KINGWOOD — A settlement between FirstEnergy and environmental groups over alleged arsenic discharge at the company’s Albright Power Station requires a $45,000 payment to the Morgantown office of an international organization for a solar research project.

The payment will go to The Mountain Institute, which is focused on protecting mountains. Another $5,000 is to be paid to the U.S. Treasury for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

The settlement is intended to resolve a lawsuit filed by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Sierra Club and the W.Va. Rivers Coalition against FirstEnergy — also known as MonPower — last year over arsenic discharges in excess of the plant’s West Virginia/National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WV/NPDES) permit. The arsenic is coming from the plant’s ash disposal facility, according to the suit.

The agreement also calls for FirstEnergy to shut down the Albright plant by Sept. 1, which the company has already said it will do, “barring only the WV Public Service Commission ordering them not to,” West Virginia Sierra Club spokesman Jim Sconyers said.

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said the $50,000 settlement is not an admission to any of the suit’s allegations, “but is intended simply to end the litigation prior to the plant shut down in September. At that time, the plant will not be producing any more coal combustion by-products, so there will be no disposal or discharge issues going forward.”

Sconyers said any changes at the federal level will have no impact on the company’s obligation to shut down the plant. The company announced in February that the cost to retrofit three West Virginia power plants, including Albright, to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics was prohibitive. The MATS regulations are to take effect in 2015 and are aimed specifically at power plants.

Other terms of the agreement:

The company cannot bring ash from any other facilities, and can dump ash only from the Albright plant until the completion of demolition.

Arsenic discharges from the ash pond must be brought into compliance with its WV/NPDES permit. Failure to do so will result in monetary penalties.

“West Virginia Sierra Club is glad to see Albright’s arsenic pollution of the Cheat River addressed once and for all. Arsenic is an extremely toxic pollutant,” Sconyers said. “We’re also hopeful that Mon Power’s decision to close the plant will go hand-in-hand with a renewed commitment by the company to energy conservation programs. Conservation has the potential to meet electric demand without new and hugely expensive plants, while providing good jobs for workers. And we encourage Mon Power to implement its upcoming demolition of the plant with the health and safety of the community foremost in its plans.”

“From the beginning, we have denied being out of compliance, arguing all along that [the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection] erred by setting arsenic discharge limits that were too high,” Durbin said. “Our intent was to work through the DEP administrative process rather than through the courts.”