CHICAGO – A coalition of health and environmental groups have won a significant victory in their legal fight to clean up the E.D. Edwards coal plant near Peoria, IL. U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade ruled the plant operator, a Dynegy subsidiary, violated its operating permit thousands of times over seven years, emitting an excessive amount of soot pollution, a known health hazard.
“Old plants like Edwards need to install modern pollution control equipment, but Dynegy has failed to do so, while taking a ‘duct tape and bubble gum’ approach to maintenance,” said NRDC attorney Ann Alexander. “The company may have saved itself money, but Peoria citizens paid the price in dirty air. We’re glad the court recognized that this has gone on long enough.”
The suit was originally brought in 2013 by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club Illinois, and Respiratory Health Association (RHA), alleging violations of the indicator used by the plant to gauge how much soot (known as particulate matter or PM) is showered onto the surrounding community. Breathing particulates is associated with respiratory and cardiac problems, including asthma, decreased lung function, and premature death.
“We’re thrilled that Judge McDade is holding Dynegy accountable for the many years that it has spewed out harmful soot, failing residents of Peoria County,” said Jennifer Cassel, an ELPC attorney representing RHA. “It’s time for Dynegy to recognize that if it is going to continue to operate the Edwards plant, it must respect the community and the law by installing functional pollution controls.”
“More than ten thousand people in Peoria, Pekin and surrounding communities live with asthma and are being subjected to this illegal pollution,” said Joel Africk, RHA president and chief executive officer. “Violations at the Edwards coal plant have been going on for years and the judge’s decision ensures this disregard for our clean air laws will not continue.”
“Dynegy's E.D. Edwards coal plant has burdened surrounding communities with pollution for decades,” said Joyce Blumenshine, Sierra Club Heart of Illinois Group Chair and member of Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance. “The decrepit technology the plant calls pollution controls is clearly ineffective. The court has done its job well in holding Dynegy accountable for the harm it has done. Peoria, Pekin and Bartonville families have a right to air that is safe to breathe. This ruling is a much needed step in the right direction.”
The challenge will now shift to a remedy phase when the judge may decide what steps the plant must take to curb its pollution and comply with its permit, and what penalties its operator must pay for the violations.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at http://www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop strategic campaigns to protect natural resources and improve environmental quality. Our multi-disciplinary staff employs teamwork approaches using legal, economic, and public policy tools to produce successes that improve our environment and economy.
Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. Today, the association addresses asthma, COPD, lung cancer, tobacco control, and air quality with a comprehensive approach involving education, research, and policy change. For more information, visit www.lungchicago.org.