What’s at Stake
If existing coal plants are modified to allow them to continue operating, the Clean Air Act requires them to install modern pollution controls.
When the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, the law allowed many existing coal plants, oil refineries and other facilities to continue running without having to install the best available pollution controls required for new facilities. The theory was that these aging facilities would shut down quickly in favor of new, modern plants. If those existing plants were instead modified to allow them to continue operating, the law requires them to install modern pollution controls.
Unfortunately, this approach backfired as fossil fuel power plant operators routinely skirt the law by erroneously labeling the rebuilding of their aging plants as nothing more than “routine maintenance.”
Detroit Edison (DTE) is a prime example—the company made multi-million dollar changes at several coal plants in southeastern Michigan without installing new pollution control technology, as the law requires.
Shannon Fisk, Managing Attorney, Coal Program, Earthjustice: “A lot of big old coal plants still lack modern pollution controls because they were not required to install them until they were modified.”