CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that Dynegy, Illinois’ third largest electric power company, has agreed to dramatically cut dangerous power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury beyond what the federal government requires. Dynegy’s agreement to adopt the Governor’s multi-pollutant reduction plan comes less than two weeks after the Ameren Company, the state’s second largest power producer, agreed to the plan. Today’s announcement builds momentum toward achieving Gov. Blagojevich’s goal of making Illinois the nation’s clean energy leader by reducing harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Under the plan, Dynegy will:
· Install equipment designed to reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent, for 96 percent of their capacity by 2009; the remaining 4 percent of capacity will receive these controls in 2012.
· Dramatically reduce its emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides – two of the most harmful pollutants from power plants – significantly beyond federal requirements;
· Agree not to trade emissions credits needed for compliance with sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides standards outside of Illinois or with other companies in Illinois, which means that reductions in emissions are the result of actual pollution reductions in Illinois and not credits purchased from other states;
· Accelerate the installation of pollution controls required under a consent degree with the State of Illinois and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“This agreement with Dynegy means that now two of the state’s largest power companies have signed on to dramatically cut harmful emissions and help protect the health of the people of Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We are reducing pollution in our air, lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the state. Over time, that means fewer health problems for children, for senior citizens, and for adults. It means fewer cases of asthma, bronchitis, lung disease and even developmental disabilities like cerebral palsy. Dynegy deserves a lot of credit for doing the right thing and working with us to make our air and our rivers and lakes cleaner and safer.”
“By working cooperatively with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Governor's Office, and recognizing the leadership provided by Governor Rod Blagojevich and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Director Doug Scott, we have developed a long-term solution that enhances the standing of our Midwest fleet as the cleanest-operating group of coal-fired power generation assets in Illinois and among the lowest-emission coal fleets in the U.S.,” said Bruce A. Williamson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dynegy Inc. “The investments outlined in today's announcement, combined with our previously announced efforts, provide significant benefits to Illinois that include a cleaner environment, while continuing to provide reliable, affordable electricity and quality jobs for Illinois.
“Further, the agreement recognizes our previously announced environmental efforts and investments, while taking into consideration future mercury requirements at the federal level and the new state-level mercury proposal in Illinois,” Williamson added. “By dealing with these rules in a comprehensive and proactive manner, we are able to balance the financial impact on the company and our investors, while supporting the long-term viability of our Illinois assets.”
Under the agreement, 96 percent of Dynegy’s capacity will utilize pollution control equipment by 2009, and is designed to achieve the Mercury standards proposed by the Governor earlier this year. The remaining 4 percent will install controls able to meet the standards by 2012. In addition, Dynegy will make major reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, again surpassing federal standards.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides contribute to fine air pollution particles and nitrogen oxides chemically contribute to ground-level ozone that can lead to respiratory illness, particularly in children and the elderly, and aggravate heart and lung diseases. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can also contribute to acid rain, reduced visibility and damage to sensitive ecosystems.
The state standards will cut toxic mercury emissions faster and more thoroughly than new federal restrictions adopted last spring and will achieve the largest amount of mercury reduction of any state.
In March, Gov. Blagojevich filed rules with the Illinois Pollution Control Board that would cut mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants by 90 percent by 2009. Illinois' mercury rule will achieve reductions of toxic mercury emissions from power plants faster and more thoroughly than federal restrictions.
“Dynegy’s decision to join Ameren in support of the mercury pollution reduction plan and reduce their emissions of other dangerous air pollutants is a win-win-win for better public health, job creation and economic development in Illinois,” said Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Under this plan, Dynegy will be doing their part to help clean up the air while protecting Illinois women and children from mercury pollution. This continues to show that a clean environment and healthy economic climate go hand in hand. We applaud the parties in the case for their willingness to move forward on the Governor's mercury reduction plan.”
“The Illinois mercury rule will do what federal regulators wouldn't: put children’s health first. Dynegy’s willingness to join Ameren in agreeing to this multi-pollutant plan means Illinois will have among the most protective mercury rules in the country while achieving significant early reductions in other dangerous pollutants that form soot and smog,” said Rebecca Stanfield, State Director of Environment Illinois.
The tough new mercury standards proposed by the Governor will significantly reduce toxic mercury emissions and will help protect our environment our children. Dynegy is now going beyond that by cutting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, demonstrating their commitment to reducing even more air pollution from their power plants,” said Doug Scott, Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “We hope this will not be the last company to recognize the how their decision to adopt a multi-pollutant plan can drastically improve all of our lives.”
Mercury is a harmful toxin that can cause serious health problems to the human nervous system. Mercury becomes toxic when it enters lakes and streams from the atmosphere through rain and snow. People can become exposed to dangerous levels of mercury by eating fish from contaminated lakes and waterways. Mercury exposure can harm developing fetuses and can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, lower IQs, slow motor functions, deafness, blindness and other health problems. Recent studies indicate that as many as 10 percent of babies born each year in the United States are exposed to excessive mercury levels in the womb.
In the U.S., an estimated 43 percent of mercury emissions come from power plants, making them the largest man-made source of mercury emissions. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the state’s coal-fired power plants emit 3.5 tons of mercury into the air every year.