The first indications of how the Obama Administration will approach the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review (“NSR”) program became apparent this week, as one utility settled its NSR lawsuit and another new lawsuit was filed by the Justice Department. All signs point towards an acceleration in NSR enforcement actions against coal-fired power plants.
On Tuesday, one utility agreed to pay a $1.4 million civil penalty and spend approximately $135 million on pollution controls to resolve NSR allegations brought by the Justice Department in 2007. John C. Cruden, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department, is quoted in EPA’s press release as stating that “[t]he Justice Department will spare no effort in its pursuit of emission reductions from power plants across the country to achieve the benefits envisioned by the Clean Air Act.”
One day later, on Wednesday, the Department of Justice filed a new enforcement action against another utility for projects involving the replacement of reheaters, superheaters, and economizers during the 1990’s. In a statement announcing the lawsuit, the Justice Department referred to the complaint as “part of a national initiative to stop illegal pollution from coal-fired power plants” and asserted that “coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other industry in the United States.” The lawsuit appears to confirm expectations that the new administration will move forward on many cases that the Bush Administration had chosen not to pursue in light of pending reforms to the NSR program that have now been abandoned.