A federal court in Pennsylvania has dismissed an enforcement action brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and several states under the Clean Air Act (CAA) against a coal-fired power plant in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, ruling that the government’s claims were filed well beyond the applicable statute of limitations. United States v. Eme Homer City Generation L.P., No. 11-19 (W.D. Pa. 10/12/11).
Plaintiffs alleged that the former plant owners were out of compliance with the CAA’s prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) program because they failed to obtain a pre-construction permit before starting a multimillion dollar project to update the facility in 1991. According to plaintiffs, the modifications resulted in an increase in sulfur dioxide (SO 2) emissions. Finding that the violation was a one-time instance and not an ongoing offense as argued by the plaintiffs, the court ruled that the statute of limitations had run for the 1991 alleged violation in 1996. A Title V permit application was, in fact, submitted, and a valid permit was issued in 2004. Thus, the court found that civil penalties were not recoverable. The court also refused to hold the current facility owners liable for alleged deficiencies and omissions in the underlying application submitted by the former owners. The court therefore refused to grant plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief against the current owners of the plant.
Granting the defendants’ motions to dismiss without giving plaintiffs leave to amend, the court noted, “The Court appreciates Plaintiffs’ frustrations that the expectations of the PSD program have not been achieved as to the Homer City plant and that society at large continues to bear the brunt of significant SO 2 emissions from the grandfathered facility. Nevertheless, the Court must adhere to the plain text of the Clean Air Act.”