WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2000 (Bloomberg News and The Cincinnati Enquirer) Utilities in 19 states, including Cinergy Corp., Thursday won an extra 13 months to finish billions of dollars of upgrades or replacements of coal-fired power plants after a federal court extended the implementation deadline for clean-air rules.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gave states until May 31, 2004, instead of May 1, 2003, to reduce emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides. The Environmental Protection Agency issued the regulations in September 1998, though the rules were caught up in legal challenges until last June.
Cincinnati-based Cinergy has estimated the upgrades will cost up to $700 million. Eleven of Cinergy's 36 coal-powered generating stations are slated to get equipment to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
"The decision was made in part to adjust for the time lost in earlier court challenges by polluters, which failed," said EPA spokesman Dave Cohen. "The ruling does not prevent the EPA or the states from moving ahead with the first plan ever to reduce regional smog throughout the Eastern United States."
The rules are an attempt to reduce pollution that crosses state lines. Midwestern utilities, state officials and coal interests sued in November 1998 to stop the rules from being implemented, saying emissions from their states do not pollute air in the East.
American Electric Power Co., the nation's largest producer of coal- fired electric power, and Southern Co. . are among the companies expected to be affected by the rules.
Electric utilities had argued that the rules set up an impossible timetable for making costly changes. Cinergy officials said the tight deadlines drove up the cost because each utility will be competing for contractors and labor.
The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, has said it will cost utilities tens of billions of dollars to refit existing plants or switch them to run on cleaner- burning natural gas. Adding pollution-control equipment to coal- fired power plants will take three to five years, EEI officials have said.
Four states - New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania - originally asked the EPA to issue the rules, saying they couldn't meet clean-air requirements because of pollution from the Midwest and South.
An EPA lawsuit against seven Midwestern and Southern utilities is still pending. The suit accuses the utilities of skirting rules requiring them to install pollution equipment on 17 aging coal-fired power plants.
The Justice Department expanded the suit in March to included 12 more plants. AEP, Southern, Cinergy, FirstEnergy Corp., Vectren Corp., Teco Energy Inc. and Illinova Corp. are named in that lawsuit.
Reporter Mike Boyer contributed to this report.
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