Plant has operated with expired air permit since 2009

MADISON — Clean Wisconsin filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today, asking the court to compel the DNR to issue an air permit for Wisconsin Public Service Corporation’s (WPS) Weston coal plant located in Rothschild, which has been operating with an expired air permit since 2009.

“The Weston coal plant emits millions of pounds of toxic pollution every year, fills the air with soot and smog, and threatens the health of Wisconsin families,” says Elizabeth Wheeler, staff attorney at Clean Wisconsin. “An updated air permit is needed to help protect the thousands of residents living near the Weston coal plant.”

The Clean Air Act requires states to issue air permits for power plants in order to ensure compliance and allow enforcement of air pollution limits. According to the complaint filed today, the operating permit for the Weston coal plant expired on October 15, 2009.  The DNR failed to issue or deny a new permit for the coal plant by its legal deadline of March 18, 2011, leaving the new permit more than a year overdue.

“The DNR issues air permits to reduce air pollution and make sure facilities meet public health standards,” explains Wheeler. “Without an updated air permit, local residents are left without protections or measures to hold WPS accountable for pollution from the Weston coal plant.”

In 2011 alone, the Weston coal plant emitted 16,351,229 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 5,777,421 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and 1,426,929 pounds of particulates. Sulfur and nitrogen oxides create soot and smog, while particulate pollution can cause health problems including respiratory and cardiovascular distress. The plant also emitted significant amounts of arsenic, mercury, barium and other hazardous air pollutants. Because the air permit expired in 2009, there is no guarantee that the power plant is operating within federally established pollution limits.

“No power plant should be allowed to operate with an expired air permit,” says Wheeler. “It’s time for the DNR to issue an air permit for the Weston coal plant to ensure that residents living near the plant are protected from unsafe levels of pollution.”