Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Energy Company Liable for Pollution

Houston based GenOn Energy Inc. could face as much as could face $325 million in fines for water pollution violations at its power plant in Indiana County PA. A federal judge in Pittsburgh yesterday ruled that the wholly-owned subsidiary, GenOn Northeast Management Co., is liable for discharging metals into the Conemaugh River. The suit filed by PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club alleged that the violations date back to 2005. The judge found the facility committed 8,684 violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Each violation could carry a civil penalty of as much as $37,500. In 2005 the plant was run by Reliant Energy, which later became part of GenOn.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell must still decide what penalty to impose. Company officials refused comment until the penalty phase is completed. It is expected that GenOn will attempt to settle the 2007 lawsuit before the judge imposes a penalty.

Pennsylvania Sierra Club Water issues chair Thomas Au says, “GenOn’s long history of failure to comply with its pollution limits suggests that the quality of Pennsylvania’s rivers is worth less to the company than the profits it can take back to Houston.” He calls the ruling a real victory.

David Masur, the director of PennEnvironment, says the decision should force GenOn to comply with federal and state clean water rules as well as to pay a penalty large enough that the company doesn't profit from polluting.

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