Enviro group wants to again pursue Midwest Gen coal ash complaint

The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) told Edison Mission Energy’s bankruptcy court that with a procedural matter out of the way, it now wants court permission to pursue a coal ash disposal complaint in Illinois.

Edison Mission Energy and affiliate Midwest Generation, which currently operates four coal-fired power plants in Illinois, have been in Chapter 11 protection since December 2012 at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois. NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) recently announced a tentative deal to buy Edison Mission Energy assets, including the Illinois coal plants.

The ELPC complaint has to do with coal ash disposal at the Illinois plants. In October 2012, ELPC filed a complaint against Midwest Generation at the Illinois Pollution Control Board. But that case was halted by the bankruptcy court when Midwest Gen entered bankruptcy protection two months later. ELPC then asked the court to lift the stay on the ash case and let it go forward at the board.

The court in April did lift the stay, but only partially, allowing the board to rule on a pending Midwest Gen motion to dismiss the complaint. ELPC said in an Oct. 22 court motion that the board recently rejected Midwest Gen’s dismissal motion, so it now wants the court’s permission to pursue the full ash complaint at the board.

“On October 3, 2013, the Board denied the motion to dismiss, finding ELPC’s claims neither frivolous nor duplicative of those raised by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (‘IEPA’),” said ELPC in its Oct. 22 motion. The Oct. 3 board decision is attached to the Oct. 22 court motion.

According to the ELPC’s complaint pending at the Illinois board, pollutants associated with coal ash – including but not limited to arsenic, lead, and mercury – have been found in Midwest Gen’s groundwater monitoring data from the coal-fired Joliet 29, Powerton, Waukegan and Will County power plants at concentrations that may present a health risk.

ELPC wants the board to declare that Midwest Gen has violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act’s prohibitions on open dumping and groundwater pollution at its Joliet 29, Powerton, Waukegan, and Will County sites. The plaintiffs also requested that the board order Midwest Gen to cease and desist from continuing to openly dump coal ash and from causing or threatening to cause water pollution. They further asked the board to order Midwest Gen to modify its coal ash disposal practices to avoid groundwater contamination and to remediate groundwater that already is contaminated. In addition to declaratory and injunctive relief, the plaintiffs requested the imposition of civil penalties.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.