An energy conglomerate based in Houston reached a clean air agreement with the U.S. government that will trigger the installation of more than $500 million worth of scrubber retrofits to five coal-burning powerplants in Illinois. Dynegy Inc. will also spend $15 million on environmental mitigation projects and pay a $9-million fine to settle litigation filed in 1999 under the Clean Air Act.

In a consent decree filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, the utility agreed to invest $321 million in emission controls by 2010, with another $224 million to follow in 2011-2012. The company’s in-house engineering staff will prepare a compliance program to "put out for competitive bidding" for the work, says David Byford, company spokesman. Beginning in 1999, the company be-gan switching its fuel supply from high-Btu, high-sulfur Illinois Basin coal to low-Btu, low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal, Byford says.

Adding selective catalytic reduction systems (SCRs) to units at the 1,761-MW Baldwin plant and the 683-MW Havana plant already put a dent in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, the utility claims. Further corrective measures involve scrubber and baghouse installation at the two plants and also at the 191-MW Vermilion plant, 546-MW Wood River plant and 265-MW Hennepin plant.

The settlement was helped along by U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan’s June 2003 denial of utility claims that upgrades at Baldwin were routine maintenance and thus not subject to more stringent regulation under New Source Review policy.

Proponents of the Bush administration’s Clear Skies initiative say the settlement supports a voluntary compliance approach. Eric Schaefer of the Environment Integrity Project counters that progress is possible when existing laws are enforced.