SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 28, 2010

Environmental group to sue Salem power station

SALEM — Salem Harbor Station power plant violated the federal Clean Air Act nearly 300 times over the past five years, according to a lawsuit an environmental watchdog group said it plans to file.

The Conservation Law Foundation of Boston, which has been trying for years to close the Salem plant, announced yesterday that it will file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Boston seeking more than $1 million in penalties against the plant owner, Dominion Energy New England.

The lawsuit alleges that the coal-and-oil-fired facility exceeded its "opacity" limits a total of 286 times between 2005-2009. The opacity, or density of the gas stream coming from the smokestacks, is a strong indicator of the amount of soot, or small particles of metals, chemicals and ash in the emissions, the lawsuit alleges.

The CLF called the particulates "one of the deadliest pollutants" and an airborne matter that has been linked to lung and heart disease, increased emergency room admissions, and serious health problems in children.

The CLF said it is tracking the four coal-fired power plants in Massachusetts and will file the court action against only Salem because it hasn't completed work on the other plants.

"We think that all coal-fired power plants pose a tremendous threat in terms of climate change and public health," said Shanna Cleveland, a staff attorney for the CLF.

This lawsuit, she said, "also signals another chink in the armor of this particular plant." Dominion, she said, "needs to be taking another look at the impact it's having on public health before it makes a decision to keep this plant running."

A spokesman for Virginia-based Dominion said the plant "operates in compliance with federal and state environmental regulations, including those of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, which are among the most rigorous environmental regulations in the country."

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