Eleven of the 13 units have recently shut down, and under the settlement, those shutdowns become a permanent and enforceable obligation. At the remaining two units, Duke must continuously operate pollution controls and meet interim emission limits before permanently retiring them. In addition, the settlement requires that Duke retire another unit at the Allen plant, spend a total of $4.4 million on environmental mitigation projects, and pay a civil penalty of $975,000. The United States is joined in the settlement by co-plaintiffs Environmental Defense, the North Carolina Sierra Club and Environment North Carolina.

“This settlement brings five more power plants into compliance under EPA’s national initiative to cut pollution from the country’s largest sources,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “After many years, we’ve secured a strong resolution, one that will help reduce asthma attacks and other serious illnesses for the people of North Carolina.”

“The settlement announced marks another milestone in our ongoing efforts to enforce the Clean Air Act and reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This settlement is a just and fair resolution to this long-running enforcement action in which we alleged that Duke modified these plants in ways that significantly increased their annual emissions. It is good news for the environment and public health in North Carolina.”

The United States initially sued Duke in 2000, and trial was set to begin in October following years of pre-trial litigation, including a landmark 2007 Supreme Court decision agreeing with EPA’s interpretation of the relevant Clean Air Act regulations modifications that increased the actual annual amount of pollution from a plant.