By Carla Branch
After seven years of negotiation, multiple lawsuits and millions of taxpayers dollars, the City of Alexandria and Mirant have reached a settlement over the operation of the Potomac River Generating Station.
The Alexandria City Council approved the settlement at a special meeting on July 1 and after four hours of discussion and unanimous support from the Mirant Community Monitoring Group. The settlement includes specific environmental controls that Mirant must put in place at the 60-year-old power plant. Mirant will invest $34 million in the plant to make it a safer neighbor for the community.
“Our goal has always been to improve the quality life of and protect the health of Alexandrians,” said Mayor Bill Euille at Tuesday nights meeting. “This agreement has gone a long way toward that end.”
The agreement represents significant progress toward the goals established in June 2004 by providing for the following actions:
- Requires the investment of $34 million by Mirant on new pollution control technology for PM2.5 and PM10 emissions, including baghouses, enhanced pollution-control equipment, or a combination of modern technologies.
- Gives the city control over selection and implementation of these new technology controls.
- Imposes a PM2.5 emission limit that complies with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
- Requires Mirant to drop its legal challenge to the sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions limit of 3,813 tons per year, thereby locking in this limit.
- Requires installation of carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter (PM) continuous emissions monitors, on a defined schedule, allowing enforcement of applicable limits.
- Gives the city access to the plant during the design and installation of the new controls, and to critical monitoring data including PM hourly stack and ambient short-term SO2 5-emissions data.
- Requires immediate installation of additional fugitive dust controls.
- Requires installation and operation of an additional PM2.5 monitor.
Virgina congressman Jim Moran has actively supported the city’s efforts to close the plant or force Mirant to make it cleaner environmentally.
“This is a reasonable compromise reflecting the need for stringent pollution controls to protect the health of Alexandria residents and reduce the environmental harm caused by this coal-fired plant,” said Moran. “I applaud the mayor, City Council and citizen activists for standing up to Mirant, forcing a tough agreement that will lock in lower emissions limits and establish a $34 million fund to finance implementation of the latest pollution control technology at the plant.
“While this settlement is a short-term victory for cleaner air, benefiting everyone living in the Washington Metropolitan Area, larger issues continue unresolved. Mirant’s Potomac Plant is an out-dated, coal-fired facility that will continue to spew harmful pollutants, albeit at a mandated lower level. It’s a health hazard, environmental danger and major global warming contributor, and I remain committed to seeing it closed. With city officials and local environmental leaders, we will continue working to hold the facility accountable to the new regulations dictated by the settlement.”
On of those citizen activists who has been involved in efforts to close the plant is Elizabeth Chimento. “I supported this agreement because it will reduce PM2.5 and other harmful pollutants and will make Alexandria a healthier place to live,” Chimento said.
Mirant will begin immediately implementing some of the pollution control systems at the plant.