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Votes

No Agreement, More Time

Draft proposed Consent Order regarding Mirant plant pleases no one.

At Tuesday's Board meeting in Lexington, Va., the three parties — Mirant, Alexandria, and the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) — told the State Air Pollution Control Board they were unable to reach an agreement concerning operating procedures pertaining to Mirant's Potomac River Generating Station (PRGS).

So the Board voted, not unanimously, to again elongate the process.

What DEQ did present to the Board on Tuesday was a draft Consent Order issued to Mirant — one which seemed to satisfy no one except DEQ, based on presentations by both the City of Alexandria and Mirant representatives.

In presenting that draft order, DEQ stated the following:

"Notwithstanding that the proposed consent order presented March 26 was protective of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and was more protective of the environment than EPA's Administrative Compliance Order, the revised proposed Consent Order presented to the Board today contains significant concessions by Mirant that further enhance environmental protection."

That statement lead into a seven-point analysis of the order dealing with emission limits, health concerns, monitoring and reconfiguration of the PRGS's stacks. The last point stated, "Mirant shall meet annual emission limits for SO2, CO, VOCs, PM, PM10, and PM2.5 to assure that the Plant's emissions following completion of the stack merge project are below the baseline emissions."

THROUGHOUT THE three-and-one-half-hour Board meeting, relayed by telephone hook up to DEQ's Woodbridge offices and to Board Vice Chairman Vivian E. Thompson in Richmond, the parties labeled the proposed agreement as merely a "short term bridge agreement." That seemed to frustrate some Board members as well as City representatives as to why a long-range solution was not possible at this juncture.

"We feel this Consent Order we are presenting today is very

protective of the NAAQS. There will be more monitoring under this new order. However, these are not the numbers (pertaining to the pollutants) intended to regulate the plant's future. This is just a bridge order," said Michael Dowd, enforcement director for Enforcement Coordination for DEQ.

ATTORNEY JOHN BRITTON, Schnader Attorneys At Law, outside counsel to the City of Alexandria on the Mirant issue, disagreed with Dowd's assessment. "We feel the draft order is not fully protective of the NAAQS. We feel this bridge will only get us past the point of the EPA deadline," Britton told the Board.

"We have tried to separate the short term order from the long term solution. We are not opposed to further discussions," he said.

DEQ agreed that negotiations which have taken place between the parties since March 26 have been done in good faith by all three participants — a fact was buttressed by a letter dated April 6 from Britton to Walter Stone and Debra Bolton, Mirant Corporation, which stated that although an agreement wasn’t reached that the "discussions of the past week have been open and productive."

Britton also proposed, in that letter, the possibility of retaining a professional "outside facilitator" to bring "a level of objectivity" to the discussions. There was no response from Mirant prior to the April 10 Board meeting.

"Taking our directions from the last Board meeting, we have undertaken extensive negotiations but have been unable to reach an agreement. We feel both Alexandria and Mirant negotiated in good faith. But, it became obvious after our meeting last Thursday (April 5) that there was going to be no agreement," said Rick Weeks of DEQ.

The only dissenting voice at the meeting to that assessment was a Mirant representative who accused the City of derailing the negotiations. This was not addressed by any other speakers.

Robert E. Driscoll, senior vice president of Mirant Corporation, was one of the speakers for Mirant and made several points pertaining to controlling emissions at the plant and elements of the proposed Consent Order. However, both side primarily stuck to points they have made previously concerning air quality and the plant's local impact.

Following the Board meeting Driscoll issued the following statement: "The plan agreed to by both DEQ and Mirant includes very stringent limits that protect the NAAQS, and includes a solution to downwash. The City presented a plan that would not improve downwash or emissions and is largely consistent with the City's often expressed intention to shut down the plant. Mirant's plan is based solely on what is important — protecting the environment and providing reliable energy."

IN THE FINAL analysis the Board voted three to one, with one member absent, to place both the City's proposal and the DEQ Consent Order out for public comment. However, it was not clarified as to how that would take place or the time frame.

It will probably be put out for public discussion within the next few days but just how and in what venues has not been decided, according to Cindy M. Berndt, regulatory affairs, DEQ. Following that release comments will be referred back to the Board whose next meeting is scheduled for May 23. "However, it has not been decided whether those comments would be part of that meeting," Berndt said.

The motion applicable to the Consent Order and a state operating permit to control SO2 was drafted and submitted by Board members Hullihen Williams Moore and Bruce C. Buckheit. It passed three to one with Board Chairman Richard D. Langford voting against. Board member John N. Hanson was absent.