Judge Rules Against Utility Company in Federal Clean Air Act Case

A utility company in Ohio violated federal clean air laws by failing to install pollution controls when upgrading seven of its power plants, a judge ruled yesterday. The precedent-setting case marks the first time a federal judge has ruled against a utility in one of the 12 lawsuits brought against 51 dirty power plants by state attorneys general and the Clinton administration’s Justice Department. U.S. District Judge Edmund Sargus, Jr., not only ruled that FirstEnergy’s Ohio Edison violated the New Source Review rules of the Clean Air Act; he also had some sharp words for the U.S. EPA’s enforcement practices, saying the case “highlights an abysmal breakdown in the administrative process.” The same judge will hear another case later this year involving 10 power plants operated by American Electric Power Service Corp., also based in Ohio. The Bush administration, meanwhile, is still hoping to substantially ease clean-air enforcement standards.