EPA Loses Appeal Over Pennsylvania Power Plant Pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lost an appeal of a judge’s dismissal of a case over pollution from a coal-fired Pennsylvania power plant operated by an Edison International subsidiary.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia today upheld the tossing out of the case against the plant’s former owners and EME Homer City Generation LP, a former Edison unit that was once the main operator, over claims the plant spewed tons of pollutants in the air which traveled to downwind states. Edison transferred control of the Homer City coal-fired plant east of Pittsburgh to General Electric Capital Corp. in September 2012.

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry in Pittsburgh dismissed the EPA’s complaint in October 2011. The case, in which New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania intervened, was too old be brought and the then-current owners couldn’t be held liable, he ruled.

The EPA had sought civil penalties of as much as $37,500 for each day the owners operated the plant for the five years preceding the filing of its suit in January 2011, according to court documents.

The appeals court agreed with the trial court.

“In an age when coal-burning power plants mingle with electric cars and when our scientific understanding of the planet grows at the same exponential rate that our natural resources deteriorate, protecting the environment is an almost-fearsome responsibility,” the court ruled. “But when Congress’s statutory directives are at issue, that responsibility must yield to our duty to follow our coordinate branch’s commands.”

The case is US v. EME Homer City Generation LP, 11-4406, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Philadelphia)

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