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LG&E, Sierra Club come to consensus on coal ash discharge dispute

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LG&E, Sierra Club come to consensus on coal ash discharge dispute

Louisville Gasand Electric Co. and the Sierra Club have reached a potentialsettlement over a disagreement on coal ash wastewater being discharged from oneof the utility's Kentucky plants into the Ohio River.

Earthjustice, which is representing the Sierra Club, said aproposed consent decree was filed with the U.S. District Court for the WesternDistrict of Kentucky over discharges at LG&E's generating station inJefferson County, Ky. Pending court approval, the agreement would resolve anactive lawsuit over the discharged water at the plant, and LG&E would notbe required to admit to any of the violations alleged in a lawsuit.

The nonprofit environmental law organization filed the suiton behalf of theSierra Club in May 2014, asking a federal judge to order the utility to stop dischargingthe coal ash wastewater from the plant into the Ohio River.

The Sierra Club, contending the direct discharge"occurs on a daily, almost continuous basis," said at the time thesuit was filed, LG&E could face up to $68 million in penalties to accountfor five years of its alleged illegal dumping plus $37,500 for each day movingforward until the violations are eliminated. LG&E and state regulatorsargued a permit the utility received in 2002 from the Kentucky Division ofWater "allows this discharge."

Under terms spelled out in the agreement announced Sept. 27,the utility said by the end of 2016, it would no longer use a disputed opendischarge point to the river except in emergencies or when conducting planned,necessary maintenance. LG&E would also be required to inform the SierraClub any time the discharge point is used through the end of 2021.

Additionally, as part of the resolution, LG&E agreed tofund $1 million in environmental enhancement projects involving water qualityand tree planting. The utility also consented to test more water samples in thecoal ash impoundment and submit those samples to the Kentucky Division of Waterby the end of the year.

The sampling "will coincide with additional work thatLG&E will be undertaking to meet some of the new obligations imposed by theEnvironmental Protection Agency under its 2015 rule on Disposal of CoalCombustion Residuals," Earthjustice said.

LG&E in January announced a major investment to comply with the U.S.EPA's CCR rule. The Kentucky Public Service Commission in August off on the utility'senvironmental compliance plan, which will help fund the compliance projects.

"It's a good day whenever two opposing sides can seepast their differences to reach an agreement that is not only in their bestinterests but will also provide real benefits to the community,"Earthjustice staff attorney Thomas Cmar said in a statement.

"We had a vigorous disagreement over the meaning ofcertain permit language in this case, but are glad to have reached a resolutionthat brings this dispute to an end," LG&E Chairman, CEO and PresidentVictor Staffieri said. "We appreciate the opportunity to work with theSierra Club in finding common ground here."

The U.S. Department of Justice has 45 days from the time ofthe filing to review it before the district court can approve, according toEarthjustice.