Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Taft asked to step in at power plant in Clermont

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — A coalition of environmental groups Tuesday urged Gov. Bob Taft to help clean the air around four Ohio power plants, including one Cinergy Corp. owns in Clermont County.

        The Beckjord station in New Richmond and three others, near Brilliant, Marietta and Steubenville, already are targets of a massive, seven-state federal lawsuit.

        The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims Cinergy, American Electric Power and First Energy didn't install required equipment to reduce smog and acid rain when they renovated the coal-burning plants.

        Instead of waiting for a settlement or court order, groups including the Ohio Environmental Council and the Ohio Sierra Club say the governor should make the power companies upgrade these plants now. They want Mr. Taft to order the Ohio EPA to change the plants' operating permits.

        “This will ensure that citizens throughout Ohio are protected from air pollution that threatens our health and the environment,” said Jack Shaner, an Environmental Council spokesman.

        Mr. Taft said the state has to wait until the lawsuit is resolved.

        “The court has not ruled that any violations occurred,” he said.

        Court hearings in the case are not expected until 2002.

        Cinergy spokesman Steve Brash said the utility expects to prove it was not legally required to install scrubbers and other pollution reducing devices at Beckjord.

        He said work done at the plant in the 1980s fell under the category of maintenance, not major modifications. That means Clean Air Act requirements did not apply.

        A January report compiled by the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce lists the Beckjord station as one of the area's biggest polluters.

        Beckjord released 5.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air in 1998. The area's 174 manufacturers combined released 3.4 million pounds that year.

        In a recent study, the Public Interest Research Group linked Ohio power plant pollution to 1,900 deaths a year and to 37,000 asthma attacks.

        A Cinergy study showed Beckjord's emissions present a less than 1 in 2 million risk of causing cancer. That's well below a 1 in 1 million regulatory standard set by the U.S. EPA.


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