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Is Your Power Company Fighting in Court Against Safeguards From Mercury and Toxic Air Pollution?

John Walke

Posted May 25, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy

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Last week marked the deadline for lawsuits to challenge EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) also got in on the action and officially announced the launch of his Congressional Review Act resolution to void the MATS.

These health standards are a decade overdue, and will for the first time set national limits on toxic air pollution such as mercury, lead, and cancer-causing dioxins. The standards will reduce by 90% the mercury pollution that coal- and oil-burning power plants emit. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that harms children’s developing brains and nervous systems, and power plants are the largest industrial source of mercury in the United States. Some of the more than 60 other toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants are known or suspected carcinogens, and EPA is finally taking action [pdf] to clean up this pollution.

In addition to significantly reduced neurotoxins and carcinogens, EPA projects [pdf] that starting in 2016, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards every year will prevent: up to 11,000 premature deaths; nearly 5,000 heart attacks; 130,000 asthma attacks; 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits; and 540,000 days when people miss work and school.

Electric power companies across the country have unleashed their lawyers and lobbyists in Washington, attacking these important health standards in court and in Congress. But many of these companies don’t want to be open about their attacks on important public health safeguards. These corporations hide behind specially created, blandly titled coalitions, which frequently serve as litigious mercenaries fighting clean air safeguards. Using a front group of convenience allows individual electric utility companies to shield their names and anti-public health crusades from public awareness.

So, if you are wondering whether your local power company is fighting in court against standards protecting us from mercury and other toxic air pollution, check out the list below that we compiled from the court filings and other sources:

Chase Power Development (subsidiary: Las Brisas Energy Center)

Deseret Power Electric Cooperative

Edgecombe Genco and Spruance Genco (both owned by Calypso Energy Holdings)

Kansas City Board of Public Utilities

Midwest Ozone Group (members listed):

Alliance Resource Partners, L.P.

Alpha Natural Resources

Ameren

American Electric Power

Arch Coal,  Inc.

Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas

Basin Electric Power Cooperative

Berwind

BNSF Railway

Buckeye Power, Inc.

Caterpillar

Charah

Consol Energy

Crounse Corporation

CSX

Drummond Company, Inc.

DTE Energy

FirstEnergy

Jenmar

Joy Global Inc.

LG&E and KU

Luminant

Martin Engineering

MEC

NRP

Norfolk Southern

Oglethorpe Power

Peabody Energy

Prairie State

Southern Company

Sunflower Electric Power Corporation

Tenaska

     Tenaska Trailblazer Energy Center

Tri-State

Union-Pacific

Western Fuels Association, Inc.

Appalachian Power Company

Columbus Southern Power Company

Indiana Michigan Power Company

Kentucky Power Company

Ohio Power Company

  • Ameren Corporation. Subsidiaries:

Ameren IP

Ameren UE

Ameren CIPS

Ameren CILCO

  • Dayton Power and Light (DP&L)
  • Duke Energy
  • First Energy
  • LG&E and KU Energy LLC
  • Springfield (IL) City Water, Light & Power

Oak Grove Management

Power4Georgians  

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority

Sunflower Electric Power

Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association

White Stallion Energy Center

Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative

ARIPPA

Utility Air Regulatory Group* (members listed): 

  • Appalachian Power Company
  • Carolina Power & Light Company
  • Central Illinois Public Service Company
  • Central Power and Light Company
  • CINergy Corp.
  • The Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company
  • PSI Energy
  • Columbus Southern Power Company
  • Constellation Power Source Generation, Inc.
  • Consumers Energy Company
  • Dayton Power and Light Company
  • DTE Energy
  • Dominion Energy
  • Dominion Generation
  • Dominion Virginia Power
  • Dominion North Carolina Power
  • Duke Energy Corporation
  • Dynegy Marketing and Trade
  • E.ON U.S. LLC. Subsidiaries:

LG&E Energy Corp.

Kentucky Utilities Company

Louisville Gas & Electric Company

Western Kentucky Energy

  • FirstEnergy Corp.
  • Florida Power Corporation
  • Indiana Michigan Power Company
  • Kansas City Power & Light Company
  • Kentucky Power Company
  • Los Angeles Department of Water & Power
  • Madison Gas and Electric Company
  • Minnesota Power/ALLETE
  • Mirant Corporation
  • Monongahela Power Company, dba Allegheny Power
  • NiSource, Inc.
  • Oglethorpe Power Corporation
  • Ohio Power Company
  • Ohio Valley Electric Corporation
  • Otter Tail Power Company
  • PacifiCorp Electric Operations
  • Potomac Edison Company, dba Allegheny Power
  • Public Service Company of New Mexico
  • Public Service Company of Oklahoma
  • Salt River Project
  • South Carolina Electric & Gas Company
  • Southern Company. Subsidiaries:

Alabama Power Company

Georgia Power Company

Gulf Power Company

Mississippi Power Company

Savannah Electric and Power Company

  • Southwestern Electric Power Company
  • Texas Utilities
  • Tucson Electric Power Company
  • Union Electric Company
  • West Penn Power Company, dba Allegheny Power
  • West Texas Utilities Company
  • We Energies

Edison Electric Institute

National Mining Association

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

American Public Power Association (representing public power utility companies; see here for a listing of public power company members in your state).

                                                * * * * *

* The “Utility Air Regulatory Group,” or UARG, is a challenger in both the Cross State Air Pollution Rule and MATS litigation. As you can see, many of the companies involved in the MATS litigation are members of UARG.

If you Google UARG, there’s no link to the organization, like the other companies listed above. The first result that a Google search returns is a link to the law firm of Hunton & Williams’ air practice group. In comments filed regarding the MATS, UARG describes itself as “a voluntary, not-for-profit group of electric utilities, other electric generating companies, and national trade associations. UARG's purpose is to participate on behalf of its members collectively in EPA's rulemakings under the Clean Air Act and other proceedings that affect the interests of electric generators and in related litigation.”

In effect, UARG has long been linked with the private law firm, Hunton & Williams, with little transparency and no obvious independence from its association with the law firm. This allows power companies to advocate for more pollution and weaker clean air standards through lobbying, litigation, and administrative rulemaking processes, hiding behind UARG's name. In fact, one must wonder whether one reason for UARG's creation was to shield the names of member companies from general public awareness when UARG advocates for dirtier results on the companies' behalf. The litigious efforts of UARG have resulted in numerous lawsuits to weaken, delay or nullify environmental and public health standards affecting the electric power sector.

In a recent Clean Air Act enforcement case [pdf] in the Middle District of North Carolina, UARG and one of its members, Duke Energy, argued that all of the communications among member companies and UARG should be considered privileged attorney-client information protected from disclosure in the litigation. The court rejected the notion that it should “treat the UARG as if it were a corporation so that all communications among members” would be privileged. (p. 25) Further, the court noted that UARG’s “approximately fifty members” (15) banding together “for a common purpose of making their will known to government regulators” (49) didn’t make the information privileged, and UARG was required to disclose the documents to the court.

Even though you might want to know if your local power company has joined federal litigation opposing the first-ever national standards for mercury and other toxic air pollution, you cannot always be sure. Groups like UARG make it possible for power companies to say one thing while their lawyers do another, and customers and the public don't know about this.

However, on rare occasions, the membership of UARG has slipped out. The last time we are aware this happened was in 2006, when UARG disclosed its members when it submitted comments to EPA.

The list above is drawn from that 2006 list. If this list does not reflect UARG's current membership, I invite representatives for UARG or any power companies that are incorrectly listed here to contact me, and I will remove the company's name from this post.

Or, if a company does not support the lawsuits to void EPA’s life-saving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, but is listed here by virtue of its membership in one of the litigating organizations, I invite those company’s representatives to publicly disavow the lawsuits.

It’s time for power companies to own up to their harmful air pollution and destructive legal tactics to prolong that pollution.

I’m going to call my local power company and ask them if they are a member of UARG. I'll ask if they are fighting in court to overturn the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and keep poisoning my community’s air. I suggest you do so too.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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