Plant Pays $14M to Settle Louisiana Pollution Suit

     BATON ROUGE (CN) - The NRG Energy electric plant Louisiana Generating will pay $14 million in fines and environmental-improvement projects to settle pollution claims.
     Justice Department officials heralded the settlement Tuesday as the largest Clean Air Act agreement in Louisiana history.
     The government had sued the company in 2009 over the Big Cajun II coal-fired power plant in New Roads, La.
     Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno called Big Cajun II Power Plant "the largest source of illegal air pollution in Louisiana."
     It had faced claims that it violated federal and state law by operating Big Cajun II Units 1 and 2 without the required permits, and that it should have installed modern air pollution controls after undergoing the largest boiler modifications in the history of the plant.
     The settlement aims to eliminate more than 27,300 tons annually of harmful emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
     Louisiana Generating must spend approximately $250 million to reduce air pollution, pay a civil fine of $3.5 million and spend $10.5 million on environmental mitigation projects.
     The state of Louisiana will receive $1.75 million from the penalty portion of the settlement. That money will go toward retrofitting vehicles with pollution controls, truck stop electrification, buyback programs for dirty old motors and other projects.
     Louisiana Generating is allegedly eyeing pollution reduction through at least through 2025.
     The projects will include a combination of new pollution controls, natural gas conversion and annual emission caps at all three units at the Big Cajun II plant, according to the Justice Department.
     One of these projects includes the installation of solar photovoltaic panels at local schools, government-owned facilities or buildings owned by nonprofit groups.
     Louisiana Generating will also fund environmental restoration and help create charging stations for electric vehicles.
     The Justice Department noted that the settlement marks its 24th deal under the U.S. Power Plant Enforcement Initiative, which aims to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants.
     Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, a common power plant emission, have been linked to respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and premature death, the government says.
     The emissions are "significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze," it said in a statement.
     Before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana approves the settlement, it must undergo a public comment.