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"A Lot To Be Dislosed"

Virginia DEQ decision satisfies Mirant, not Alexandria.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality reissued Mirant's Trona Test Report with less material blacked out. But, with such minor changes from the original report it drew the praise of Mirant for conducting "its review of the document carefully and fairly."

City Attorney Ignacio Pessoa reacted to the state's action by stating, "This only confirms our suspicions of their [Mirant's] testing. It still leaves a lot to be disclosed."

The report, which when originally issued by Mirant, had most of its pages blacked out based on their claim that to publish the entire report would be detrimental to their trade secrets. It covers Mirant's 2005 test use of trona to reduce SO2 emissions at its coal fired Potomac River Generating Station in North Old Town Alexandria.

In an April 6 press release, Mirant states, "The test were highly successful, achieving SO2 reductions of up to 80 percent, plus significant reductions in particulate emissions. DEQ and the City of Alexandria witnessed the tests."

The release also claimed "Mirant has invested substantial resources to develop its trona injection process and intends to seek patents. Therefore, we want to preserve the value of our efforts by preventing premature public disclosure of proprietary information."

Originally, DEQ agreed with redacting the vast majority of the report. But, upon further examination, coupled with pressure from the city and U.S. Rep. James P. Moran (D-8), decided more should be released.

In a letter dated April 3 Richard F. Weeks, deputy director, DEQ, assured Lisa Johnson, president, Mirant Potomac River, L.L.C., "DEQ will not provide the city (Alexandria) with the portions of the Report that DEQ has determined upon reconsideration are not entitled confidentiality (i.e., the blue highlighted portions of the Report) for at least 48 business hours following your receipt of this letter."

During their second review process, DEQ had marked in yellow those portions of the report they felt were entitled to confidentially and in blue those portion they determined were not so entitled. The letter to Johnson identified the areas marked in blue on a page-by-page basis with a brief explanation of their reasoning.

THE TIME DELAY in notifying the city of their decision coincided with the date on the press release — April 6. On that same day, April 6, a letter was sent by DEQ to John B. Britton, Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, outside counsel for the city on the Mirant controversy, informing him, and through him, the city of their decision.

In that letter, Michael Dowd, air enforcement manager, DEQ, stated, "Upon reconsideration, DEQ has determined that the redacted portions of the attached Report contains Trade Secrets pursuant to Va. Code, Section 10.1-1314.1, and that with respect to the redacted portions of the Report, Mirant has substantiated its claim for trade secret protection and confidentiality."

With the letter they sent Appendix B of the Trona Report entitled "CEMs RATA Report Summary," which previously had been labeled confidential. They said they believed that no portion of this report could claim to be confidential. Since this was not mentioned in the Mirant press release they apparently agreed with that conclusion.

The letter was written in answer to Alexandria's filing of a Freedom of Information Act request. It sought to make not only the data but also the testing methodology from Mirant's trona experiment a matter of public record.

Three days prior to his letter to Britton, Doud attended the Mirant Community Monitoring Group meeting at Alexandria city Hall and proclaimed, "We have a statutory obligation under Virginia law to protect a company's trade secrets."

Dowd also conceded that as far as releasing any information DEQ had concluded that under the trade secret protection "a judge may have to decide this one." He also said, "I know there is a great deal of skepticism in Alexandria about the use of Trona" but "the first round of tests was very promising."

This brought forth a resolution by the Monitoring Group, prepared by Elizabeth Chimento and Poul Hertel, initiators of the entire Mirant examination, calling on city Council to "oppose the use of Trona" at the Mirant plant. It was approved with only one dissenting vote.

Mirant concludes its April 6 press release with, "Mirant is committed to protecting the health and safety of the citizens of Alexandria and the surrounding region. The trona injection process is an example of Mirant's innovative approach to addressing the nation's environmental needs and providing the mid-Atlantic region with an essential, reliable source of electric power."