The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the judgment entered on a verdict rendered by a jury which determined that owners of a number of coal-fired power plants in the Midwest violated the Clean Air Act by making modifications to a plant in Indiana without obtaining a permit. U.S. v. Cinergy Corp., No. 09-3344 (7th Cir. 10/12/10). The jury found that renovations to the plant in Wabash, Indiana, undertaken between 1989 and 1992, were likely to increase the plant’s annual emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and therefore the owners should have sought a permit.
The appellate court disagreed, holding that because the plant complied with Indiana’s 1982 state implementation plan, which had been approved by EPA before the renovations began, the plant was entitled to judgment on the issue of sulfur dioxide emissions. According to the court, “[t]he Clean Air Act does not authorize the imposition of sanctions for conduct that complies with a state implementation plan that EPA has approved.” As for the nitrogen oxide emissions, the court ruled that the district court erred in allowing EPA’s experts, who improperly calculated the plant’s emissions, to testify. The court therefore reversed and instructed the lower court to enter judgment for the plant’s owners.