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Conemaugh River power plant agrees to $5M pollution settlement

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By Timothy Puko
Monday, June 6, 2011

A power plant company will have to pay about $5 million for polluting the Conemaugh River, according to environmental groups that announced the settlement today.

A subsidiary of GenOn Energy Inc. will have to pay -- mostly for watershed restoration and preservation projects -- for dumping wastewater full of chemicals and other toxics from its generating station in Indiana County. The coal-fired plant in West Wheatfield is liable for more than 8,600 violations of the Clean Water Act and could have paid a civil penalty of more than $325 million, according to a federal judge's ruling in March.

PennEnvironment and the Sierra Club accepted the settlement -- which also covers more than $1 million of their legal fees -- to end more than four years of litigation and ensure millions could be devoted to helping the long-troubled Conemaugh, said one of their attorneys, Josh Kratka. The environmental groups and a Fairfield resident had to file the suit because state regulators had reached an agreement with the company that allowed it to keep polluting, they said.

"While this historic penalty will send a strong message to other companies in Pennsylvania and throughout the region, it is equally important that the company is now committed, at long last, to complying with its legal discharge limits and to reducing its pollution of the Conemaugh River," PennEnvironment director David Masur said, reading from a prepared statement during a press conference on the North Shore. "This was a David-and-Goliath-style fight -- and the Davids were able to deliver a critical victory to the people of Pennsylvania."

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