Kansas coal plant agrees it must add pollution controls

Westar Energy has reached a settlement with the federal government to install required pollution controls on its Jeffrey Energy Center coal plant northwest of Topeka.

Westar agreed to install equipment to reduce its output of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by about 78,600 tons a year, according to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department. The Justice Department sued Westar on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency last year, alleging that the company violated the Clean Air Act by modifying the three generating units at Jeffrey without installing required pollution- control equipment.

The company argued that the work on the units was maintenance, which could legally be done without triggering the requirement for new pollution controls.

It will be several years before the full cost of the environmental improvements is known, said Bill Eastman, Westar's environmental director. He said the company has committed to installing one smog scrubber, which will cost about $200 million. Westar is hopeful that it can meet its emission-reduction targets without having to install a second unit, which would bring the cost closer to the $500 million that the Justice Department estimates, Eastman said.

In addition, the company agreed to pay a $3 million fine and for $6 million worth of off-site environmental improvements, including vehicle emission reductions and wind power.

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