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Waukegan Generating Station

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Waukegan Electric Generating Station is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Edison International subsidiary Midwest Generation in Waukegan, Illinois.

As part of a 2006 agreement with the state of Illinois, Midwest Generation said it plans to shut down the three smallest generating units in its fleet -- two units at the Will County Generating Station in Romeoville and one at its Waukegan Generating Station -- between the end of 2007 and the end of 2010. According to the 2010 Annual Report for Edison International, under an Illinois rule called the Combined Pollutant Standard (CPS), aimed at reducing mercury, NOx and SO2 at Illinois plants, Will County Station Units 1 and 2 were retired in 2010 and Waukegan Generating Station Unit 6 was retired in 2007.[1]

The company also has committed that its smallest plant -- the single-unit Fisk Generating Station in Chicago -- will either have additional controls for sulfur dioxide emissions or be shut down by the end of 2015. The same agreement to shut down or install additional controls applies to the Waukegan Generating Station by the end of 2014 and to the Crawford Generating Station in Chicago by the end of 2018.[2]

In November 2010, the Illinois EPA issued a construction permit to Midwest Generation to install flue gas desulfurization equipment to cut emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulates from Waukegan Generating Station Unit 7. The permit authorizes the company to use a dry scrubbing system with sodium-based sorbents to cut sulfur dioxide emissions as required by state and federal rules at the company's Waukegan coal-fired power plant unit 7 north of Chicago. Midwest Generation spokesman Doug McFarland said the company may wait until "sometime in 2012" to decide whether to invest in the pollution-control equipment or shut down Unit 7. The decision will depend on market conditions and air quality rules.[3]

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Citizen groups to file suit against Midwest Generation

In July 2009, five groups of environmental and public health advocates announced their intent to file a Clean Air Act lawsuit against Edison International subsidiary Midwest Generation. The groups say Midwest's six Illinois power plants are decades old and do not have the appropriate pollution controls according to EPA standards. Specifically, the lawsuit will focus on opacity violations, a measurement of the light blocked by particulate matter from smokestacks at Midwest's Waukegan, Crawford, Fisk, Joliet, Powerton, and Will County stations.

The concerned groups include Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, and Sierra Club. The six power plants in question are located in working class and minority neighborhoods, raising concerns about environmental justice. The groups expect to file suit in 60 days, unless Midwest Generation comes into compliance or stops operating, or unless the EPA takes other measures.[4] Shannon Fisk, an attorney for NRDC, described Midwest's Fisk and Crawford plants as, "two dinosaurs in the middle of a large city. They should have cleaned up decades ago. Running those plants is inexpensive for the company, but it's very expensive for public health."[5]

Midwest spokesman Doug MacFarlan said the company is being targeted unfairly, and that Midwest's plants release less particulate matter than most. He also said the company had responded to local complaints by reducing both the amount of coal piled up at Crawford and the dust that blows off barges transporting its coal. "We really believe we have demonstrated environmental responsibility at those plants," McFarlan said. In 2006, Midwest made an agreement with the state of Illinois to reduce emissions at its coal plants. The company has installed mercury controls, but has not decided whether to install scrubbers or shut the plants down. The company has until 2015 to install scrubbers at its Fisk plant and until 2018 at its Crawford plant.[5]

On August 28, 2009, less than a month after the lawsuit was filed, the EPA, Department of Justice, and state of Illinois announced that they would also be filing suit against Midwest Generation for illegal emissions of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide.[6]

2010 report: Waukegan cost public up to $620 million since 2002

According to a 2010 report by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), "Midwest Generation’s “Unpaid Health Bills”: The Hidden Public Costs of Soot and Smog From the Waukegan Coal Plant in Illinois Total $520 - $690 Million Since 2002" pollution from Midwest Generation’s Waukegan coal plant has caused between $520 million and $690 million in public health damages since 2002. The report uses data from the National Research Council finding that particulate matter (soot), from the Waukegan coal plant creates about $86 million in health and related damages annually. The Waukegan coal plant is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Northeastern Illinois, about 40 miles north of Chicago and 50 miles south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. More than 67,000 people live within three miles of the plant. The plant still operates using equipment built between 1958 and 1963, and Midwest Generation, the plant’s owner, has not installed modern pollution controls such as scrubbers.[7]

ELPC’s report examines recent scientific research on the health effects of soot and smog pollution from coal plants. Numerous authoritative scientific panels have found that particulate matter pollution from coal plants harms public health, causing various health detriments including premature death, heart attacks, and cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The personal hardship and economic impact of these health problems is borne by the public. In 2006, after a public advocacy campaign by ELPC and other health and environmental and children’s advocacy groups, the Illinois Pollution Control Board ordered Midwest Generation to reduce toxic mercury emissions at Waukegan and other coal plants in Northern Illinois. A related order requires Midwest Generation to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution at the Waukegan coal plant by the end of 2014.[7]

Plant Data

  • Owner: Midwest Generations EME LLC
  • Parent Company: Edison International
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 803 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 121 MW (built 1952; retired 2007), 326 MW (1958), 355 MW (1962)
  • Location: 401 East Greenwood Ave., Waukegan, IL 60087
  • GPS Coordinates: 42.382778, -87.820274
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 4,829,238 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 11,815 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 4,940 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 229 lb.
  • Residents within 3 miles: 67,776
  • Average income within 3 miles: $16,197 (70.1% of Illinois average)
  • People of color within 3 miles: 72.1% (47.0% Latino, 18.7% African-American)[8]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Waukegan

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[9] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[10]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Waukegan Generating Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 34 $250,000,000
Heart attacks 54 $5,900,000
Asthma attacks 570 $30,000
Hospital admissions 25 $580,000
Chronic bronchitis 21 $9,200,000
Asthma ER visits 35 $13,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed March 2011


Articles and Resources

Sources

  1. Edison International 2010 Annual Report, page 40
  2. "Midwest Generation, Governor Agree On Long-Range Emissions Reduction Plan" BusinessWire, 2008.
  3. "EPA Approves Edison International Unit's Pollution Control Plan," Dow Jones Newswire, November 24, 2010
  4. Terry Bibo, "Illinois coal plants are being threatened with lawsuit," Journal Star, July 29, 2009.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Kari Lydersen, "'The Clunkers of the Power-Plant World': Old Coal-Fired Facilities Could Escape New Rules," Washington Post, August 17, 2009.
  6. Henry Henderson, "You're Not the King of Me: Midwest Gen Runs Afoul of the Clean Air Act," Huffington Post, August 29, 2009.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Report Finds Midwest Generation’s Waukegan Coal Plant Caused Up To $690 Million in Health Damages Since 2002" Environmental Law & Policy Center, Nov. 16, 2010.
  8. "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People in Illinois" by Adrian Wilson, NAACP, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), and the Indigenous Environmental Network, 2011
  9. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  10. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010

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