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Westar Seeks Settlement of Clean Air Lawsuit

Westar Energy announced a proposed settlement of their lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice over Clear Air Act Violations around its giant Jeffrey Energy Center, west of Topeka, Kan.

The settlement was filed Monday with the Eastern District of Kansas Federal Court, seeking the court’s approval, the company said in a written statement.

“In the past few years, Westar has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the environmental performance of our coal plants,” said Bill Moore, Westar’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Long before the Department of Justice filed this lawsuit, we were already taking actions to keep our air clean.”

The settlement calls for environmental investments and mitigation the utility would have eventually done, and the agreement “puts our dollars to work for the environment rather than being spent on expensive litigation,” he said.

Environmental organizations that joined the lawsuit couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

In the settlement, Westar agrees to install a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system on one of the three Jeffrey Energy Center coal units by the end of 2014. SCR is a technology that reduces emissions of nitrogen oxide into the air, similar to what a catalytic converter does on a vehicle, according to Westar.

Then, depending on the reduction levels attained by the single SCR and through the installation of other controls on the other two Jeffrey Energy Center coal units, a second SCR system would be installed on another Jeffrey coal unit by the end of 2016, if needed, according to the utility.

New low-nitrogen oxide burners and electrostatic precipitators, which would remove emissions of fine particles, mostly of ash, created from burning coal; will proceed as planned, the company said.

Westar said it will also spend $6 million in environmental mitigation projects over six years. The mitigation investments include hybrid electric utility vehicle and electric transportation infrastructure, clean diesel vehicle conversions and small-scale renewable wind.

Westar said it also agrees to pay a $3 million civil penalty as part of the settlement. The company said it won’t try to recover the civil penalty from customers.

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