Rare Hearing Could Be Imminent if Air District, LG&E Can’t Agree on Coal Ash Violations

The Air Pollution Control Board could be close to its first administrative hearing in seven years.

At a meeting today, the board approved a settlement between the Air Pollution Control District and Louisville Gas and Electric. Under the terms of the settlement, LG&E will pay $10,500, as well as implement stricter pollution controls to contain coal ash dust at the company’s Cane Run Power Station.

But the two violations that were settled are only a portion of the incidents that were included in the Notice of Violation the APCD issued in July. There are six other alleged violations, and at the public meeting today, LG&E officials indicated they don’t believe the company should be penalized.

Cane Run General Manager Dave Tummonds told the board that LG&E has invested in the “most stringent dust controls in Jefferson County,” spending more than $1.5 million on the plant (which is scheduled to be shut down in 2015). But the company doesn’t believe it violated any regulations in the six unsettled incidents. In several of the cases, Tummonds says the coal ash dust didn’t leave the company’s property, and a violation would essentially mean the APCD won’t tolerate any visible emissions. In another case, the violation happened during a storm and high winds, and the company doesn’t feel it should be responsible.

“APCD does not hold LG&E to a ‘no visible emission’ standard, but to the standards in its permits and the district regulations,” APCD spokesman Tom Nord said later in a written response to Tummonds’ comments. “The APCD did not come today to put on its case on the contested matters. It will do so in an administrative hearing, which will be based on sworn testimony rather than opinion and interpretations of the requirements.”

Representatives of the Sierra Club also attended the meeting, showing their support of the APCD’s enforcement actions. Cane Run resident Kathy Little sent a statement, saying:

“Ultimately, people who live near coal-fired power plants pay a disproportionate price for the cost of electricity for all. We pay for it with our health and ultimately our lives. People of diverse backgrounds and low-incomes bear the brunt of this environmental injustice. They suffer because industries want to do business in the cheapest manner that they can. In this instance, LG&E does not fix an ailing sludge plant, they do not use dust suppressants consistently, they will not and do not care that there are not EAP’s for any of their high hazard ash ponds.”

Other Sierra Club members urged LG&E to invest in renewable energy, and stop burning coal.

If LG&E and the APCD can’t reach an agreement on the remaining six alleged violations, the matter will go to an administrative hearing. APCD spokesman Tom Nord says there have only been two in the past ten years—both in 2006. In both cases, the hearing officer ruled in favor of the Air Pollution Control District.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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