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Votes

Council Focuses on Mirant

VDEQ proposes permit for Potomac River Plant.

The Alexandria City Council reviewed staff and consultant comments Tuesday night on a proposed Virginia Department of Environmental Quality permit for Mirant’s Potomac River Plant. Council also discussed other steps in bringing the plant into compliance and/or requiring its closure.

“These comments are consistent with the long-term goals for Mirant adopted by council earlier in the year,” said Richard Baier, director of Transportation and Environmental Services.

The city opposes the issuance of an amended state operating permit before it is clear that the permit’s conditions will ensure the Potomac River Plant’s compliance with all ambient air quality standards and all relevant state and federal air quality regulations.

Also, city staff is concerned whether the Potomac River Plant is in compliance with EPA’s regulations for new source review. This means that VDEQ needs to determine whether Mirant has made any modifications to its existing facilities that might require compliance with newer pollution control standards.

The city is also requesting that additional NOx controls be added to the operating permit to units 1 and 2 at the Potomac River Plant, or that Units 1 and 2 not be operated at all on high ozone days. In addition the city wants to see annual and daily NOx emission limits on the Potomac River Plant are added as additional conditions of any operating permit.

Finally, the city believes that the proposed monitoring program in the consent decree is inadequate and that additional monitoring which fully meets monitoring guidelines issued by EPA must be required.

By approving the comments, council authorized the city manager to submit these comments to VDEQ by this Thursday. “It is important that we let VDEQ know about our concerns and make sure that they are reflected in any new operating permit,” said Mayor William D. Euille.

THE CITY MANAGER WILL also submit comments to the U.S. Department of Justice on the proposed consent decree that addresses the NOx emissions from the four Mirant generating facilities in the Washington, D.C. region. “Our comments are going to be very similar to those council is reviewing now,” City Manager Philip Sunderland said. These comments are due on Nov. 8.

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8) proposed federal legislation that would have closed the Potomac River plant last year. “I want to encourage VDEQ to not rest on its laurels with its consent decree agreement,” Moran said. “It is a good agreement, better than what I thought was possible. But they should be viewed as just a step along the path to ensure that the public’s health is being protected.… Until we have satisfactorily addressed other important issues that were outlined in the consent decree, I do not believe the plant should be issued a new operating permit.”

Council is also considering taking land use options. The Planning Commission is considering a request from the city to revoke two special use permits granted to Mirant in 1989. These permits allow Mirant to operate as a nonconforming use. Revocation would give the company seven years to operate before closing. The Planning Commission deferred the matter at the October meeting. It is now scheduled for the commission’s November meeting.

Euille was pleased with the actions council took. “This is a good start and now the Planning Commission needs to move the process along,” he said. “I would like the city manager to convey to them our sense of urgency here.”