The Village of Rockville Centre has agreed to pay a $110,000 penalty to settle a lawsuit alleging that the village’s power plant emissions exceeded pollution limits since at least 2009, violating the Clean Air Act, federal authorities said.
Federal prosecutors and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it reached a settlement in its suit against the village after the agencies found the 33-megawatt diesel-engine-powered municipal power plant emitted more particulate matter and nitrogen oxide than allowed by law.
“The settlement enforces specific and appropriate emission limits that are critical to mitigating human exposure to particulate matter, which is potentially harmful to our health,” said Seth D. DuCharme, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Rockville Centre is one of three villages on Long Island that operate their own electric power plants independent of the Long Island Power Authority grid. The other two are the villages of Freeport, which similarly had to replace aging diesel engines due to pollution more than a decade ago, and Greenport.
Besides paying a penalty, the Rockville Centre settlement also requires the village to retire its three most high-emission diesel power plant engines and reclassify certain engines to limit their use to reduce pollution emitted so that the plant is in compliance with federal law. The settlement additionally requires the village to increase its capacity to import electricity, install a continuous emissions monitoring system on all non-emergency engines, and implement periodic engine tune ups.
The village, which primarily uses its power plant to meet high demand for electricity during summer, instituted controls that lowered the particulate matter emissions in 2018, but the nitrogen oxide emissions violations continue, authorities said. Under the settlement, the village will have to resolve the nitrogen oxide issue by Dec. 31, 2021.
“Emission limits on particulate matter and nitrogen oxides exist to help reduce conditions that lead to the formation of dangerous soot and smog,” said Peter D. Lopez, regional administrator of the EPA. “Studies show that in excess, both of these pollutants are linked to a range of respiratory ailments and premature death… By fully implementing the actions in the agreement, the village can protect people that live, work, and visit this community.”
The settlement, known as a consent judgement, was filed at Central Islip federal court. It is subject to a 30-day public comment period before a judge can consider it for approval. The village referred requests for comment to the outside attorneys it hired to handle the case.
“The village’s expectation is that such court approval will be forthcoming,” said Eli Eilbott of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke, which represents the village in the case. “The village is pleased with the final terms and conditions of the settlement, under which the village does not admit any of the allegations set forth in the complaint and the village agrees to implement various measures to improve the performance of its power plant and increase the amount of power it can import from the interstate power grid, which in turn is expected to reduce the need to run the power plant to meet customer electricity demand.”
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