Much of August lawsuit against Luminant unsealed by court

A newly unveiled document details Department of Justice Clean Air Act complaints against Texas power generator Luminant Generating Co., the Sierra Club said Nov. 25 as it released this document to the public.

The previously sealed information comes as part of an enforcement case filed Aug. 16 by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency against Luminant, a subsidiary of Energy Future Holdings. DOJ filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleging violations of the Clean Air Act at two coal-fired plants owned by Luminant and Energy Future Holdings (EFH). The claims were filed “under seal” because of Luminant’s assertions that portions of the government’s case could reveal confidential trade secrets.

The DOJ has now released a public version of the complaint revealing nearly all of its claims, the club noted. According to the claims, Luminant made “major modifications” at its Big Brown and Martin Lake coal plants that increased SO2 and NOx emissions. The unsealed complaint alleges that Luminant made major modifications at all three coal-burning units at the Martin Lake power plant and one unit at the Big Brown power plant without updating air pollution permits or installing pollution safeguards.

“The more information the public can learn about Luminant’s refusal to clean up their act, the better,”said Nia Martin-Robinson, organizer with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

The club said that new details include allegations that:

  • Luminant made major modifications to Units 1, 2, and 3 at Martin Lake in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 and continues to operate the plant without installing pollution controls for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides;
  • Luminant made major modifications to Unit 2 at the Big Brown coal plant in 2005 and continues to operate the plant without installing pollution controls for sulfur dioxide;
  • Luminant has improperly withheld information from the government requested by EPA under Section 114(a) of the Clean Air Act;
  • The DOJ and EPA are asking the federal court to order Luminant to install pollution controls at Martin Lake and Big Brown coal plants, apply for new permits, and conduct an audit to determine if other New Source Review (NSR) violations are occurring at Luminant plants.

Said the Nov. 1 Form 10-Q report from Energy Future Holdings about this case: “In August 2013, the United States Department of Justice, acting as the attorneys for the EPA, filed a civil enforcement lawsuit against Luminant Generation Company LLC and Big Brown Power Company LLC in federal district court in Dallas, alleging violations of the CAA at our Big Brown and Martin Lake generation facilities. In September 2013, we filed a motion to stay this lawsuit pending the outcome of the Fifth Circuit Court’s review of the July 2012 and July 2013 notices of violation. We believe that we have complied with all requirements of the CAA and intend to vigorously defend these allegations. We cannot predict the outcome of these proceedings, including the financial effects, if any.”

Those July 2012 and 2013 notices of violation had been precursors to the lawsuit and they are subject to separate appeal at the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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.