A TVA effort to clean up some of its coal-fired air pollution backfired and brought the utility a $450,000 fine on Tuesday.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has agreed to pay the fine to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Clean Air Act violations at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in Stevenson, Ala. Specifically, the utility leaked nearly 944 tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide - key components of ozone and smog and contributors toward acid rain problems.
The violations resulted "from ongoing and pervasive duct leaks ... that were not adequately repaired and that allowed SO2 and NOx to escape into the atmosphere from 2002 through 2005," according to an EPA statement Tuesday from agency spokeswoman Dawn Harris-Young.
TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci said the leaks were caused when the utility installed new air pollution controls at the plant in 2003.
"This new system, which helped TVA achieve overall nitrogen oxide emission reductions, subsequently contributed to increased corrosion in the air ducts, causing leaks that allowed emissions with relatively minor amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides to escape," she said.
The utility addressed the duct leaks in 2005 by replacing the entire duct, Martocci said, and TVA's overall sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide reductions with the new controls "more than offset" any atmospheric releases from the duct leaks.
"During the calendar years of 2003 to 2005, annual emissions at Widows Creek Fossil Plant were reduced by approximately 9,700 tons of sulfur dioxide and 4,600 tons of ozone season nitrogen oxide, thanks in part to new control technology," according to Martocci.
TVA and EPA estimated that, during that same time period, the duct leaks resulted in the emission of 931 tons of sulfur dioxide and 13 tons of ozone season nitrogen oxide.
As part of the settlement, TVA agreed to retire 931 sulfur dioxide allowances and 13 nitrogen oxide allowances under EPA's NOx cap-and-trade program and its acid rain cap-and-trade program.
"This will result in the elimination of 931 tons of SO2 and 13 tons of NOx emissions to the atmosphere that would otherwise be permissible," Harris-Young said.