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City Suspends Mirant Nuisance Suit

Alexandria has suspended its "nuisance" suit against the Mirant Potomac River Generating Station to provide time to "evaluate thoroughly the effects of recent developments in the effort to reduce harmful pollutants at the aging coal-fired power plant," the City recently announced.

"This action is in keeping with the City's overall commitment to hold Mirant accountable for its actions and to eliminate this source of harmful pollutants. All the evidence and expert analysis developed for this case will remain valid for use in ongoing state and federal regulatory proceedings, and for pursuit of the nuisance lawsuit in the future," said Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille.

"As a direct result of our efforts and those of concerned Alexandria citizens, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board has assumed greater responsibility for the issuance of permits and other activities at Mirant. That proactive step by the Board and other developments make it unnecessary for the City to proceed with the nuisance suit at this time," Euille said.

Under the auspices of the APCB, the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is developing a new state operating permit for the plant located at the North end of Old Town Alexandria. Based on continuing monitoring and analyses, the City has requested that DEQ set emissions limits for all criteria pollutants.

"Our position has consistently been built upon the best scientific evidence available. Several new studies from around the country point to this insidious, invisible threat, fine particulate matter known as PM23, as being a major health hazard. We have urged the state to extent the permit's restrictions to protect against the threat these invasive fine particles pose to the community's health," Euille said.

The City has encouraged DEQ to review Mirant's proposed reconfiguration of its exhaust stacks and the use of a trona-injection system intended to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. DEQ has been asked to determine if these actions by Mirant "warrant the imposition of significant upgrades in environmental control technology at the plant." DEQ review is underway.

For its part, Mirant stated that "it is encouraged by the City's decision to voluntarily dismiss its nuisance lawsuit filed against the company." It was filed in Alexandria Circuit Court on Oct. 7, 2005.

"Mirant has and continues to make improvements to the Potomac River plant, which have led to a significant reduction of emissions at the facility," said Felicia Browder, company spokeswoman.

"We will continue to work with all federal and state agencies to ensure that the plant complies with applicable regulations and operating conditions. We look forward to working with the City of Alexandria to provide a safe, affordable and reliable source of energy for the citizens of the greater Washington region," she said.

None of the power produced by Mirant's Potomac River Generating Station is utilized on the Virginia side of the River. It is all geared to providing a reliable backup source to the District of Columbia and its immediate environs.

Federal and state regulatory agencies have also submitted a proposed Amended Consent Decree to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which the City opposes in its current form, according to the City's public information office. The agencies have requested and received a stay of the Court's consideration of the City's opposition pending the agencies' review of public comments.

"There are a number of provisions in the proposed Consent Decree that we believe are not in the public interest. They merely add uncertainty to the timing and resolution of public health issues critical to the City and its citizens," Euille said.

"The City will continue to take every responsible step to protect the health of our residents and the environment. It is as a direct result of the City's efforts and the committed activism of Alexandria residents that new measures have been undertaken on the federal and state levels, as well as by Mirant itself. We remain resolute in the protection of the community's health," he stated.

Under Virginia law, plaintiffs have the right to withdraw and later re-file a lawsuit for strategic reasons. Alexandria's "non-suit" was filed on Dec. 13 in Alexandria Circuit Court.