Federal judge throws out suit against GenOn coal plant

A federal district judge in Pennsylvania has thrown out a landowner lawsuit that targeted the 570-MW Cheswick coal-fired plant, owned by GenOn (NYSE: GEN).

U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry ruled Oct. 12 that Kristie Bell, Joan Luppe and other plaintiffs failed to state a plausible claim for relief to be granted. The judge went on to add that the power plant at issue is already regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD).

“Here, the Clean Air Act represents a comprehensive statutory and regulatory scheme that establishes the standards with which the Cheswick Generating Station must abide,” the judge said in the opinion. “Plaintiffs’ claims impermissibly encroach on and interfere with that regulatory scheme,” the judge added.

The plaintiffs had originally attempted to file a “class action” suit against GenOn in April in a state court, Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County. The plaintiffs asserted that Cheswick damages their property.

The plaintiffs claim to represent at least 1,500 people who either own property or reside within a one-mile radius of the power plant in the Borough of Springdale. The 82-acre site is located about 18 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, according to the GenOn website.

Because GenOn is based out-of-state in Houston, Texas, the litigation was soon moved to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

The petitioners alleged that because of concern over air emissions from the plant along with coal dust and fly ash, they had been denied the enjoyment of their property and become “prisoners in their own homes.”

“The Complaint also asserts that Defendant knew of or allowed the improper construction and operation of the facility and that GenOn continues to operate the power plant without proper or best available technology or any proper air pollution control equipment, thereby allowing the generating station’s emissions to invade and damage the properties within a one-mile radius,” according to the ruling.

The plaintiffs sought to recovery compensatory and punitive damages under various common law tort theories, including nuisance, negligence, recklessness, trespass and strict liability. They also sought injunctive relief.

GenOn is currently involved in a corporate merger with NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG).

The lawsuit was brought against GenOn Power Midwest LP. The case number is 2:12-cv-929.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.