Progress Energy, environmental groups settle

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Progress Energy Florida, the state and two environmental groups have settled a permitting dispute about the utility’s coal-fired power plants at Crystal River, reports the News Service of Florida. The Sierra Club and the Florida Wildlife Federation in October challenged a Department of Environmental Protection plan to renew a water-discharge permit. The groups contended that Progress’ discharges of hot water into the Gulf of Mexico damaged an ecosystem and also raised questions about whether the utility should take additional steps to protect sea life from getting trapped and killed in water-intake systems. But an administrative law judge last week approved a settlement in the case. That settlement led Monday to the Department of Environmental Protection signing the permit. Under terms of the settlement, the permit will expire Aug. 31, 2013. Also, Progress would have to apply by March 4, 2013, for any future renewals, according to the settlement. Progress spokeswoman Suzanne Grant said in an e-mail that the renewal had originally been expected to expire in September 2016. Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who helped represent the environmental groups, said agreement on a shorter renewal period stems, at least in part, from new federal emissions standards that will force Progress to decide whether it wants to continue operating the coal plants in the future. “Why litigate if you don’t need to?” Guest asked.

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