Four days before environmental groups were to file a federal lawsuit for violations of environmental laws by the waste coal-burning Seward Generating Station near Johnstown in Indiana County, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection issued a new permit to the plant’s owner, RRI Energy of Houston, Texas, that requires the facility to upgrade and comply with environmental standards.
Penn Environment Director David Masur says the company’s own reporting listed 12,000 violations of the Clean Water Act and Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams law over five years.
Hot water going into the Conemaugh River caused ten to twenty degree temperature swings in a matter of hours, which harmed local ecosystems, and there were toxic emissions and groundwater contamination, according to Masur.
Masur says it’s good news that the violations will stop, but it’s bad news that the DEP did not fine the company because it sends the message to polluters that there will be no penalty for breaking the law.
Masur says the Clean Water Act establishes the right of citizens to sue when government agencies are not enforcing the law, and it was the threat of a lawsuit that finally resulted in an end to the environmental violations in this case.