AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP)- The owner and management companies of an Agawam power plant will have to pay about $8.5 million in criminal and civil penalties, for improperly reporting data about the plant’s emissions, as well as tampering with equipment that monitors air pollution.
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The Justice Department announced Wednesday that Berkshire Power Co. and Power Plant Management Services have agreed to plead guilty to the charges of conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act. The charges, which are the first of their kind, came after a joint federal and state investigation into the plant’s reporting from 2009 to 2011.
Prosecutors alleged that Berkshire Power and Power Plant Management Services caused employees with the Wood Group (a company hired to run day-to-day plant operations) to tamper with the equipment, in order to hide the fact that the plant was emitting more pollutants into the atmosphere than is allowed. Berkshire Power and Power Plant Management Services then took the skewed data and entered it into reports with the EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
In a news release sent to 22News Wednesday, prosecutors and regulatory officials had strong words for both companies.
“The deliberate scheme Berkshire Power Plant management and staff undertook gave them an unfair competitive advantage over responsible companies, and undermined a system that depends on honest data reporting,” said Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division in Boston. “Maximizing profit to minimize the cost of controlling pollution is placing greed over protecting nearby communities. EPA will continue to pursue cases that maintain data integrity, so we can do our job to protect clean air.”
“Reporting environmental information accurately is essential to state and federal efforts to improve air quality. Cases where information is misrepresented will be pursued to the fullest extent to protect the integrity of our air quality programs,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “Some of the funds generated by this settlement will support innovative programs to improve air quality in the Commonwealth, including the woodstove change-out and electric vehicle subsidy programs.”
Two individuals have also been criminally charged in the case: Frederick Baker, a former manager with the Wood Group, and Scott Paterson, an instrument control technician at the plant.