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American Electric Power, the country’s largest power generating company, stands accused of violating the Clean Air Act by failing to cut emissions at its plants in Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The federal government and eight states, including New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut claim that the company made major modifications to nine coal-burning plants without installing equipment that would have significantly reduced pollution.

Although the regulations under which the Clinton administration sued utilities like American Electric were rewritten by the Bush administration, the new rules are still not in effect because they are under review by various federal courts.

American Electric, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, as well as the other utilities that have been sued for violating the Clean Air Act claim the work done at the plants was in the nature of “routine maintenance” and, as such, did not require the installation of the expensive new pollution control systems regardless of which set of rules applied.

The government’s case and that of the affected states charges the high level of emissions of pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide have caused acid rain downwind of the plants in question along with severe respiratory problems like bronchitis and asthma.

The non-jury trial is before federal District Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., who has already ruled against Ohio Edison, which is owned by FirstEnergy Corporation. In that case, Ohio Edison agreed to pay $33.5 million in fines and environmental initiatives and to spend $1.1 billion on pollution control equipment to reduce plant emissions.

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