WildEarth Guardians Challenges Failure of Xcel Coal Plant Permit to Safeguard Clean Air, Climate
Lawsuit Filed Against EPA to Overturn Air Pollution Permit for Hayden, Colorado Coal-fired Power Plant
DENVER-WildEarth Guardians today filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to overturn an air pollution permit allowing Xcel Energy’s to jeopardize clean air and a safe climate while operating the Hayden coal-fired power plant.
“Clean air and a healthy climate go hand in hand,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “The smokestacks of the Hayden plant are spewing massive amounts of dirty air pollution that needs to kept in check, not ignored.”
The lawsuit targets the failure of the EPA to respond to a petition filed by WildEarth Guardians in March of 2009. The petition, filed with the Administrator of the EPA in Washington, D.C., calls on the agency to overturn a permit issued by the State of Colorado over its failure to monitor dangerous particulates and to limit global warming pollution from the smokestacks of the Hayden coal plant, as required by the Clean Air Act and Colorado law. By law, the EPA was required to respond to the petition within 60 days.
The Hayden coal plant, located in western Colorado near the town of Steamboat Springs, is a major source of air pollution. According to Xcel’s own data on file with the State of Colorado, every year the coal burning plant releases:
15,547,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide pollution-which forms smog and haze-as much as is released by nearly 407,000 cars (according to the EPA, a car releases 38.2 pounds of nitrogen oxides).
445,460 pounds of particulate pollution, which scars scenic landscapes and can trigger asthma attacks.
5,360 pounds of hydrochloric acid, a toxic chemical.
8.52 pounds of mercury-a potent neurotoxin-enough to fill more than 5,500 household thermometers. Just one household thermometer can contaminate all the fish in a 15-acre lake.
4,300,000 tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is fueling global warming, nearly 5% of Colorado’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
The air pollution permit was issued to Xcel Energy under Title V of the Clean Air Act. Under Title V, permits are issued by states, but citizens can petition the EPA to veto them if they fail to comply with the law. In the case of the Hayden coal plant, the permit fails to require monitoring to assure compliance with legally mandated particulate pollution limits.
The permit also entirely fails to keep global warming pollution in check as required by law. Carbon dioxide is considered an air pollutant under both the Clean Air Act and Colorado state law. Under state law, an air pollutant is considered to be “any gas...which is emitted into or otherwise enters the atmosphere.”
State regulations require any stationary source of air pollution that spews more than 250 tons per year of any pollutant regulated under state law to use the best available controls. Although the Hayden coal plant emits more than 250 tons per year of carbon dioxide, the permit fails to ensure Xcel Energy uses the best available pollution controls to keep global warming pollution in check.
“This is an oversight of monumental proportions,” said Nichols. “With our climate, our health, and our safety at stake, this is one legal duty Colorado should not have turned its back on.”
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
The complaint is available at ../support_docs/complaint-xcel-hayden-08-21-09.pdf.