Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Peter D. Lopez, Regional Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2 (EPA), announced today that the United States filed suit under the Clean Air Act (CAA) against the Village of Rockville Centre (“the Village”) to address its failure to comply with federally-enforceable emissions limits for particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxide (NOx). The Village operates a 33 megawatt municipal power plant (the “Power Plant”) that provides electric power to its residents, in part, using diesel engines. The Village operates the Power Plant primarily during the summer to meet high electricity demands.
The parties also agreed to enter into a Consent Judgment that requires the Village to retire high-emission engines, and to institute operational practices and technologies to reduce further the PM and NOx emissions of the Power Plant. The settlement also requires the Village to pay a civil penalty of $110,000 and perform other injunctive relief that will bring its Power Plant into compliance with the CAA.
The lawsuit and Consent Judgment were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Central Islip, New York. Following a 30-day public comment period, the United States will review any comments and, if appropriate, request the District Court to enter and approve the Consent Judgment.
“The United States brought this action to ensure that the Village of Rockville Centre meets its obligation to protect our air quality by instituting stronger emission control practices at its power plant,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme. “The settlement enforces specific and appropriate emission limits that are critical to mitigating human exposure to particulate matter, which is potentially harmful to our health. This Office will vigorously enforce the Clean Air Act against parties who illegally emit air pollutants and compromise the safety of our community.”
“Emission limits on particulate matter and nitrogen oxides exist to help reduce conditions that lead to the formation of dangerous soot and smog. Studies show that in excess, both of these pollutants are linked to a range of respiratory ailments and premature death,” stated EPA Regional Administrator Lopez. “EPA is committed to resolve violations of the Clean Air Act. By fully implementing the actions in the agreement, the Village can protect people that live, work and visit this community.”
The CAA was passed by Congress in 1970 to protect public health and the environment through the regulation of air emissions from both stationary and mobile sources. The law requires the EPA to establish national ambient air quality standards and imposes limits on air pollutant emissions.
Since at least 2009, the Power Plant has exceeded PM and NOx limits under the CAA. As a result of the United States’ enforcement efforts preceding this settlement, the Power Plant’s exceedances of PM ceased in December 2018, by which time the Village had instituted effective operational controls to reduce its PM emissions. However, the Village continues to violate the NOx limits, and the Consent Judgment requires the Village to comply with the NOx limits by December 31, 2021.
As part of the settlement, the Village has permanently retired its three most polluting engines. Further, the Village will reclassify certain engines to limit their use, which will produce significant emissions reductions. The Village will also increase its capacity to import electricity, thereby reducing the load on its Power Plant and associated air emissions. Finally, the Consent Judgment requires the Village to install and operate a continuous emissions monitoring system on all non-emergency engines and implement periodic engine tune ups. These requirements will protect local air quality while enforcing the Village’s compliance with PM and NOx limits.
The negotiations and settlement were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James R. Cho and Matthew Silverman and paralegal Loan Nguyen of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, working with Liliana Villatora, Denise Leong, Amanda Prentice and Sara Froikin of the Regional Counsel’s Office, U.S. EPA Region 2, Gaetano LaVigna, Chief, Stationary Source Compliance Section, Air Compliance Branch, U.S. EPA Region 2 and Richard Kan, also with the Air Compliance Branch.