Indianapolis Power & Light Co. Settles Lawsuit Alleging Clean Air Act Violations at Petersburg Plant

IPL agrees to pay $1.5 million to settle claims the company failed to take measures to reduce emissions for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist.
September 1, 2020

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by the federal government and the state of Indiana claiming the company failed to do enough to prevent the emission of toxic air pollutants at its Petersburg Generating Station in Pike County.

IPL agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.525 million, $600,000 of which will be deposited in the state’s Environmental Management Special Fund.

The company will also have to undertake a $5 million environmental mitigation project that will provide a new, non-emitting source of power on one or more capped coal ash ponds. In addition, it must spend at least $325,000 to acquire and donate ecologically sensitive land near the Petersburg Station and the Patoka National Wildlife Refuge.

IPL will also be required to install a pollution control device known as a Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction System on one of the plant’s coal-fired units, upgrade its sulfuric acid mitigation system, and operate pollution control equipment to reduce nitrous oxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist emissions.

Under the consent agreement, IPL could skip installing the control device if it retires two of its coal-fired generating units before July 1, 2030.

The company previously announced it would retire its 230 MW Unit 1 in 2021 and its 415 MW Unit 2 in 2023, but would keep two remaining coal-fired generating units operating until 2042.

“Clean air is vital to Hoosiers’ long-term health, and IPL’s commitment to reducing the emissions from its Petersburg Generating Station is an environmentally-conscious step in the right direction,” said Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.

IPL said the agreement allows the company to move forward with other energy plans.

“We are pleased to have worked with federal and state officials to conclude longstanding discussions with an agreement that recognizes our progress in accelerating a safer and greener energy future through pollution control measures and significant reduction in emissions,” said Lisa Krueger, president of the U.S. strategic business unit for IPL’s parent company, The AES Corp. “Settling this matter now solidifies environmental contributions we will make in Indiana communities and avoids expensive and lengthy litigation.”

According to the lawsuit, IPL was notified in 2009, 2015 and 2016 that it violated the Clean Air Act in a variety of ways, including permitting and emission violations.

One of the allegations in the suit claims that between 2011 and 2015 IPL failed to operate sulfuric acid mitigation systems at three boilers for hundreds of hours at Petersburg Station.

The toxic emissions led to the plant receiving the ignominious super-polluter designation. It was near the top of the list of U.S. facilities that spewed the most pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions in 2014.

That year, only eight other facilities in the entire country emitted more chemicals into the air.

Soon after, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intervened, and toxic releases dropped significantly.

EPA records indicate that sulfuric acid levels emitted from the facility are more than 62 times lower than emitted in 2014.

Sulfur dioxide emission levels are about 10 times lower than 2014, and nitrogen oxide emissions are nearly 2 times lower.

Despite gains in air emissions, the plant still has issues with water quality.

Effluent from the facility has contained many times the amount of boron and selenium allowed by its Clean Water Act permit.

Members of the public will soon be able to let the Department of Justice and the EPA know what they think about the settlement by submitting public comments at the Environment and Natural Resources Division site.

You can read the consent decree and comment here.

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. Settles Lawsuit Alleging Clean Air Act Violations at Petersburg Plant