Detroit — The Sierra Club took aim at DTE Energy and four of its coal-fired power plants Tuesday with a lawsuit claiming the facilities have violated the federal Clean Air Act.
Filed in U.S. District Court, the suit targets the energy provider's Belle River, River Rouge, St. Clair and Trenton Channel coal plants. Sierra Club officials claim those plants exceeded their emissions restrictions roughly 1,500 times between 2007 and 2012.
The violations resulted in amounts of pollutants like mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide being released that might harm residents near the plants.
Those excesses are tied to opacity levels — the visual density of airborne emissions as they leave a power plant. The lawsuit seeks to compel federal and state agencies to enforce clean air regulations at the plants.
"Today's legal action is the latest in our campaign to hold DTE Energy accountable for skirting their legal obligations and operating one of the nation's oldest coal fleets," Tiffany Hartung, a representative of Sierra Club Michigan's Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement. "When coal-dependent utilities like DTE realize that they can no longer pollute Michigan communities for free, the burden of operating their old coal plants causes their outdated business model to crumble."
DTE officials Tuesday said they had not had a chance to review the lawsuit.
"All of our plants are in compliance with the applicable state and federal emissions regulations…," said John Austerberry, a DTE spokesman.