A federal judge in Birmingham has dismissed a decade-old lawsuit against Alabama Power Co. The suit claimed the amount of air pollution coming from five of the company’s coal-fired power plants increased after modifications were made to the plants. U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Hopkins entered her order on March 14th. In the order, the judge wrote that in a teleconference in January with all sides, she had said that she could grant a summary judgment to all claims if there was no admissible evidence as to net emissions increases from the plants.
Judge Hopkins ruled that information about the increase in pollutants from the plants provided by two expert witnesses for the federal government was not admissible in the case. Alabama Power had maintained from the start that its activities were always in full compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. The ruling by Judge Hopkins rejected the EPA’s claims and also its methods for determining whether power plant maintenance projects trigger an obligation to get a new clean air permit. The order also supports the position that electric utilities can do routine maintenance and repairs on their coal-fired generating units without violating EPA’s “New Source Review” regulations.