The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice announced Wednesday that Louisiana Generating, an electric generating company owned by NRG Energy, Inc., agreed to a settlement at its Big Cajun II coal-fired power plant in New Roads, Louisiana, which will result in the elimination of over 27,300 tons of harmful emissions per year. The settlement, lodged in federal court today in Baton Rouge, will require Louisiana Generating to spend approximately $250 million to reduce air pollution and also requires the company to pay a civil fine of $3.5 million and spend $10.5 million on environmental mitigation projects.

Louisiana Generating will achieve these reductions through a combination of new pollution controls, natural gas conversion, and annual emission caps at all three units at the Big Cajun II plant. Emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) will be reduced by approximately 20,000 tons and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by about 3,300 tons.   Louisiana Generating will spend an estimated $250 million in capital costs to comply with the consent decree through the end of 2015. Louisiana Generating also has agreed to further air pollution reductions by 2025, which will reduce SO2 by at least an additional 4,000 tons each year.

The State of Louisiana joined in the settlement and will receive $1.75 million, one-half of the $3.5 million civil penalty.

“This settlement continues our important enforcement initiative to reduce harmful illegal air pollution from the largest sources of emissions,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Pollution from these sources can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and EPA is committed to making sure that they all comply with the law.”

“The Big Cajun II Power Plant is the largest source of illegal air pollution in Louisiana.  This settlement will secure substantial reductions in harmful emissions from the plant which will have a beneficial impact on air quality for residents of Louisiana and downwind states, including low-income communities who have been historically overburdened with pollution,” said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Louisiana Generating will install modern air pollution controls that will significantly reduce harmful emissions and also will perform environmental projects that will conserve energy.”

The settlement marks the federal government’s 24th settlement under its national enforcement initiative to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review requirements. SO2 and NOx, two key pollutants emitted from power plants, have numerous adverse effects on human health and the environment. These pollutants are converted in the air to fine particles of particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. SO2 and NOx are also significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze. In addition, air pollution from power plants can drift significant distances downwind, thereby affecting not only local communities, but also communities in a much broader area.

The proposed settlement will be lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana is subject to a public comment period and final court approval.

More information on the settlement is available here.