Without precautions, utilities risk pollution

January 23, 2014

Energy utilities and other companies that operate in heavy industries face a number of risks when it comes to regulatory compliance. Unless proper precautions are taken, the chance of disruptive and even dangerous pollution is high.

Consider the example of LG&E, a utility owned by PPL Corp., which is being sued by a group of Louisville, Kentucky residents who claim that they have been negatively affected by coal ash that emanated from a nearby coal-fired plant known as the Cane Run Generating Station.

According to an article from the Associated Press, this dispute has been ongoing for several years.

"Just as individuals cannot dump their household garbage on their neighbors' lawns, electric companies cannot allow their coal dust and coal ash to be blown onto their neighbors' homes and properties," the plaintiffs argued in their suit. They are seeking damages to pay for ash cleanup on their property, as well as compensation for "the loss of use of their property."

In addition, they are seeking civil penalties against PPL Corp., on the grounds that the utility violated environmental law. Finally, they want to see the site in question capped to prevent future ash from escaping.

LG&E, for its part, claims that it has undertaken coal dust mitigation efforts at Cane Run. Furthermore, it plans to convert it from a coal plant to a natural gas plant by 2015.

Still, This lawsuit could prove highly expensive for the utility if the judge rules against it. This is why it is important for utilities to work with environmental consultants, who can make sure that they are complying with pertinent regulations.

Permit secured for construction of Louisiana methanol facility

South Louisiana Methanol (SLM) recently got some good news. According to an article on Energy Business Review, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) recently approved the company's application for a permit to build a methanol facility in St. James Parish, Louisiana. The facility will be located next to the Mississippi River and directly support the creation of an estimated 85 jobs. The creation of additional jobs through indirect means is also expected.

All of this is certainly good news for qualified job seekers in the area, and the company appears confident in its prediction that it will commence construction during the second half of 2014. However, it should take action now to make sure that it does not end up in LG&E's current position in a few years.

Part of this is related to the proposed plant's location. Being so close to the Mississippi River, there is always a risk of accidental water pollution. SLM needs to make sure that it is using best practices to avoid such a scenario. Once again, input from environmental consultants is crucial at this juncture.