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Settlement ends decade-old lawsuit with Illinois coal plants

May 25, 2018

CHICAGO (AP) — President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly settled a nearly decade-old lawsuit that alleged the owners of some Illinois coal plants evaded clean air laws.

The six NRG plants have been shut down, cleaned up or converted to burn natural gas, The Chicago Tribune reported . The company tentatively agreed earlier this year to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois $500,000 each in fines.

The legal settlement made official May 10 adds a federal court order to ensure the shuttered plants stay closed and the operational ones have pollution-control equipment installed.

“We didn’t get 100 percent of what we wanted, but what’s coming out of those smokestacks now is nothing compared to what it used to be like,” said Ellen Meeks Rendulich, one of the organizers of a grass-roots group dubbed Citizens Against Ruining the Environment.

The changes will improve air quality without disrupting electricity delivery, said Keith Harley, the attorney for the group of Will County watchdogs, which filed the lawsuit. Other regional and national environmental organizations were part of the suit, but backed out in a separate settlement.

The power plants’ emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which can form smog, soot and acid rain, fell by about 90 percent from 2009 to 2017, according to a newspaper review of federal records. Carbon dioxide decreased by 75 percent during that period.

“NRG invested more than $500 million to modernize and add environmental controls to our Illinois fleet, keeping a promise we made when we acquired Midwest Generation,” David Gaier, a company spokesman, said in an email.

There are two plants in Chicago, and one plant each in Joliet, Waukegan, Romeoville and near Pekin.

The plants were originally built by ComEd in the early 1990s and 1960s. They were later bought by Midwest Generation, whose parent company went bankrupt in 2013.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, http://www.chicagotribune.com

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