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Louisiana Generating Settlement

(Washington, DC - November 21, 2012) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced today that Louisiana Generating, an electric generating company owned by NRG Energy, Inc., agreed to a settlement at its Big Cajun II coal-fired power plant in New Roads, Louisiana, which will result in the elimination of over 27,300 tons of harmful emissions per year. The settlement, lodged in federal court today in Baton Rouge, will require Louisiana Generating to spend approximately $250 million to reduce air pollution and also requires the company to pay a civil fine of $3.5 million and spend $10.5 million on environmental mitigation projects.

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Overview of Company

LaGen owns and operates electric power generation and transmission operations. The company operates and provides wholesale power to cooperatives, municipalities, and investor-owned utilities. LaGen is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and is a subsidiary of NRG Energy, Inc. LaGen’s Big Cajun II power plant is comprised of three coal-fired units and is located in New Roads, Louisiana. The plant has a combined capacity of approximately 1,725 megawatts.

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As part of the Coal-Fired Power Plant Initiative, the EPA began an investigation of Big Cajun II in 2004. Based upon LaGen’s response to the EPA’s CAA Section 114 information requests and other information obtained during its investigation, the EPA concluded that modifications were performed at two of the three Big Cajun II units that triggered the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program. EPA issued Notices of Violation in 2005 and 2006. The United States filed a complaint in the Middle District of Louisiana in February 2009.

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Injunctive Relief

The proposed consent decree will result in substantial reductions in nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxides (SO2), as well as significant reductions in particulate matter (PM.) The reductions required by the proposed consent decree will be achieved through the installation, upgrade, and operation of pollution control devices designed to reduce harmful emissions and protect public health.

The settlement includes:

  • Installation and operation of selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) at all three units;
  • Compliance with a NOx emission cap;
  • Installation and operation of dry sorbent injection (DSI) to reduce SO2 at unit 1 as an interim measure;
  • Retire, refuel, repower, or retrofit unit 1 as a final control measure to further reduce SO2 emissions;
  • Refuel unit 2 to natural gas;
  • Limitation on sulfur content of coal burned on units 1 and 3;
  • Compliance with plant-wide annual tonnage limitations on SO2;
  • Use of electrostatic precipitators to meet particulate matter (PM) emissions limitations on units 1 and 3 and installation and operation of PM continuous emissions monitors on units 1 and 2
  • Annual surrender of any excess SO2 and NOx allowances resulting from actions taken under the consent decree

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Pollutant Reductions

As compared to LaGen’s 2011 emissions, EPA expects the following emission reductions to result from this settlement:

  • SO2 at least 24,000 tons per year (20,000 by 2015, at least 4,000 additional by 2025)
  • NOx about 3,300 tons per year

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Health Effects and Environmental Benefit

The pollutants reduced under this settlement have numerous adverse environmental and health effects. Sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides can be converted to fine particulate matter once in the air.  Fine particulates can be breathed in and lodged deep in the lungs, leading to a variety of health problems and even premature death. Other health and environmental impacts from the pollutants addressed in this settlement include the following:

  • Sulfur Dioxide – High concentrations of (SO2) affect breathing and may aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease.  Sensitive populations include asthmatics, individuals with bronchitis or emphysema, children and the elderly.  Sulfur dioxide is also a primary contributor to acid deposition, or acid rain.
  • Particulate Matter – Short term exposure to particulate matter can aggravate lung disease, cause asthma attacks and acute bronchitis, may increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and has been linked to heart attacks.
  • Nitrogen Oxides – Nitrogen oxides can cause ground-level ozone, acid rain, particulate matter, global warming, water quality deterioration, and visual impairment. Nitrogen oxides play a major role, with volatile organic chemicals, in the atmospheric reactions that produce ozone.  Children, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are susceptible to adverse effects such as damage to lung tissue and reduction in lung function.

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Environmental Mitigation Projects

The proposed consent decree requires LaGen to spend not less than $10.5 million on environmental mitigation projects, as follows: 

  • Up to $5 million to install solar photovoltaic panels at local schools, government-owned facilities, or buildings owned by nonprofit groups;
  • $500,000 to the National Park Service and $500,000 to the U.S. Forest Service to restore and protect land, watersheds, vegetation, and forests;
  • Up to $4 million to fund creation of one or more charging stations for electric vehicles in the South Louisiana area that are supplied with zero emission renewable energy sources; 
  • $1 million to mitigate nitrogen loading in the False River, which will have the co-benefit of reducing phosphorus loading and preventing harmful algal blooms;
  • Up to $500,000 on energy efficiency projects, which could:
    • include voltage optimization,
    • residential energy efficiency,
    • assistance with commercial or industrial energy efficiency improvements; and
  • $1.5 million to the State of Louisiana to implement projects that may include the following:
    • retrofitting vehicles with pollution controls,
    • truck stop electrification,
    • purchase and installation of photo-voltaic cells on buildings,
    • building energy conservation and efficiency,
    • buyback programs for dirty old motors, and
    • removal or replacement of oil-fired home heaters or outdoor wood-fired boilers with more efficient and lower emitting heaters.

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Civil Penalty

LaGen will pay a total of $3.5 million in civil penalties.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice website.

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The Plant Enforcement Effort

This is the 23rd judicial settlement secured by DOJ and EPA, and the 24th settlement overall, as part of a national enforcement initiative to control harmful emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. The total combined sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emission reductions secured from these settlements will exceed nearly 2 million tons each year once all the required pollution controls have been installed and implemented.

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For more information, contact:

Melanie Shepherdson
Air Enforcement Division
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Mail Code – 2242A
Washington, DC 22401
(202) 564-8386

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