Toronto - A settlement in the lawsuit against American Electric Power (AEP) in the United States (U.S.) will significantly reduce transboundary air pollution in Toronto and improve the health of local residents.

A report forwarded to the Board of Health today notes that as a result of an October 2007 court settlement, recently ratified by the U.S. government, emissions from AEP’s coal-fired electric plants in five U.S. states will be significantly reduced. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment estimates that up to 50 per cent of the air pollution affecting Toronto during smog days is from the United States.

“This is a major victory for the people of Toronto,” said Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health. “This settlement will lead to concrete reductions of pollutants that are known to cause serious cardiovascular and respiratory illness.”

The City of Toronto participated as a “friend of the court” in a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against AEP. Toronto Public Health and City Legal worked together to formally register the City’s concerns about the health impacts on Torontonians from AEP’s old, highly polluting power plants.

The lawsuit claimed that nine of the company’s 16 coal-fired plants violated the U.S. Clean Air Act by making major modifications to the plants without installing proper emissions control technologies.

According to the U.S. EPA, this settlement will bring about the largest reduction of pollution from a single source under the Clean Air Act, including emissions reductions of 69 per cent for nitrogen oxides and 79 per cent for sulphur dioxide from the AEP plants over the next 10 years. Exposure to these pollutants is known to cause cardiovascular and respiratory illness.

As part of the settlement, AEP will install $4.6 billion-worth of upgrades to all 16 of its coal-fired plants, pay $15 million in environmental penalties, and pay $60 million in environmental cleanup and mitigation costs. For more information, see the Board of Health report: www.toronto.ca/health/boh_reports.htm.