- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for AG Healey Co-leads Multistate Settlement with American Electric Power to Improve Air Quality
BOSTON — American Electric Power (AEP) has agreed to significantly reduce air pollution from its coal-fired power plants, pay $650,000 for clean air projects in Massachusetts, and retire a major coal-fired unit at the company’s power plant in Rockport, Indiana, as part of a multistate settlement entered this week, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The settlement – which revises a 2007 consent decree governing emissions from the company’s Midwest power plant fleet – was led by AG Healey, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, and New York Attorney General Tish James, and was joined by state attorneys general from Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The settlement was negotiated together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several environmental groups.
“Massachusetts has made major strides in improving air quality, reducing respiratory illnesses, and fighting climate change as we close dirty power plants and grow our clean energy economy,” AG Healey said. “This settlement will fund important projects that will contribute to cleaner air and help protect our state from dangerous air pollution that puts our residents’ health and the climate at risk.”
The revised consent decree, entered on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, further improves a historic 2007 air pollution settlement with AEP and secures significant reductions in emissions from AEP’s coal-fired plants that are carried by prevailing winds into Massachusetts and other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.
“AEP settlement funds have been used in Massachusetts on numerous projects to reduce air pollution, including diesel vehicle retrofits, locomotive engine upgrades, and the electrification of truck refrigeration units in Environmental Justice areas,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “More recently, AEP funds have been used to install hundreds of electric vehicle charging stations at workplaces across the Commonwealth. This agreement will cut power plant emissions that impact our air quality and help continue our efforts to cut pollution produced locally by the transportation sector.”
Under this new settlement, AEP must retire Rockport Unit 1, a 1,300-megawatt coal-fired power plant unit in Rockport, Indiana, by 2028, permanently ending all air pollution from the facility. This includes the millions of tons of carbon dioxide Rockport Unit 1 emits every year. In 2018, the amount of carbon dioxide pollution emitted from Rockport Unit 1 was equivalent to the emissions from more than 1.2 million passenger cars.
Prevailing winds carry pollutants emitted from AEP’s power plants into Massachusetts and other Northeast states, including nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur oxide (SO2), and toxics like mercury. These pollutants contribute to deadly smog and fine-particle pollution in Massachusetts and can pose other serious health risks including lung tissue damage, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, and bronchitis. SO2 pollution also causes acid rain, which can damage forests, destroy plant and animal life in lakes and other water bodies, deteriorate buildings and monuments, and affect the condition of farmland.
As part of the settlement, AEP has agreed to pay an additional $4 million to the states to fund additional programs to mitigate the air pollution harms from AEP’s power plant fleet in the states. Massachusetts will receive $650,000.
Under the original 2007 consent decree and a 2013 modification, AEP provided $30 million in mitigation payments to the states, including $4.1 million for Massachusetts. Under the oversight of MassDEP, the state has utilized those funds for projects aimed at reducing air pollution, including in recent years the deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the state. Under the terms of the settlement, AEP also must meet new, more stringent monthly NOx emission limits at both Rockport Unit 1 and Rockport Unit 2 (a second 1,300-megawatt coal-fired plant at the Rockport facility), install new NOx controls at Rockport Unit 2, by 2020, and install advanced equipment to reduce SO2 pollution at both Rockport units. The settlement also further limits, by tens of thousands of tons, the NOx and SO2 pollution that may be emitted from AEP’s power plant fleet situated east of the Mississippi River over the next decade.
The federal, state, and citizen enforcement cases against AEP to address pollution from its power plant fleet began two decades ago. According to original complaints filed against AEP in 1999 and 2004, AEP violated the Clean Air Act by undertaking plant modifications without obtaining required permits or installing modern pollution controls in violation of the Act’s New Source Review (NSR) program. The case with AEP was the largest and most comprehensive NSR enforcement case to have been brought and settled nationwide.
Assistant Attorney General Christophe Courchesne, Chief of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division, handled this settlement for Massachusetts. Edward Braczyk of MassDEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilmington provided technical support. Former Assistant Attorney General Frederick Augenstern of AG Healey’s Environmental Protection Division litigated the case and helped negotiate the original 2007 consent decree and 2013 modification.