Feds Sue NRG Subsidiary for Modifications at Coal-Fired Big Cajun 2 Plant

The U.S. government has sued Louisiana Generating, alleging that the NRG Energy subsidiary violated the clean air rules by operating the Big Cajun 2 Power Plant without also installing and operating modern pollution control equipment after the generating units had undergone major “modifications.”

The Justice Department and the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said last week that the coal-fired power plant in New Roads, La., has operated without the best available control technology (BACT) required by the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act to control emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA, asks the U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, La., to order Louisiana Generating to install and operate appropriate air pollution control technology to substantially reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from the Big Cajun 2 Power Plant.

The government also seeks heavy civil penalties—up to $27,500 and $37,500 per day —as well as actions by the energy provider to mitigate the adverse effects alleged to have been caused by the violations.

Big Cajun II comprises three coal-fueled steam units, which generate 1,700 MW of baseload or load-following generating capacity. The facility, which went into operation between 1981 and 1983, currently operates all year round and is the largest plant in the region.

NRG Energy acquired the plant in 2000 from Cajun Electric Power Cooperative Inc. after that company underwent a long and complex bankruptcy process. NRG spokesman David Knox on Thursday told The Advocate that the government’s allegations were based on projects executed by the cooperative.

“While we have been cooperating with the EPA since 2004 with respect to this matter, we have evaluated the allegations and believe the EPA’s claims have no merit,” he reportedly said.

According to the EPA, coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other industry in the U.S. “They account for nearly 70 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions each year and 20 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions,” it said in a news release last week. “To combat these adverse effects, the EPA and the Justice Department are pursuing a national initiative, targeting electric utilities whose coal-fired power plants violate the law.”

The government’s lawsuit against Louisiana Generating follows a similar suit filed against Westar Energy earlier this month. The Justice Department accused the Kansas utility of violating rules by making pollution-increasing modifications to a coal-fired power plant without also installing updated emissions control equipment. Westar denied any violation of NSR rules at its Jeffrey Energy Center in St. Marys, Kan., saying it believed it was complying with EPA rules when it made the disputed modifications at the 1,857-MW plant some 10 to 15 years ago.

Also earlier this month, the Justice Department reached a settlement with Kentucky Utilities on a similar matter. The EPA had filed a complaint against that company for allegedly making modifications, without installing required pollution controls, to its E.W. Brown Generating Station in Kentucky’s Mercer County more than 10 years earlier. Kentucky Utilities agreed to pay a $1.4 million civil penalty and spend about $135 million on pollution controls to resolve the alleged Clean Air Act violations.

Sources: EPA, DOJ, The Advocate, POWERnews

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