Opinion Your Views — 17 March 2011

Turn GenOn off: Retire the Potomac River coal plant
To the editor:
    
Last Friday, concerned citizens from Alexandria and Arlington gathered at the steps of the Environmental Protection Agency to share personal stories from people around our nation who are becoming sick from the pollution Big Oil and Coal are spewing. They gathered because they have witnessed for over half a century this pollution in their own backyard coming from the Potomac River coal plant (a plant owned by Mirant, which recently merged to form a new company named GenOn). It is past time that this corporate polluter respects the long-term wishes of Alexandrians, and retire this plant once and for all.
    
The plant is literally making us sick. According to the Clean Air Task Force website, the D.C. metro area ranks fifth in the nation for deaths attributed to coal-fired power pollution. The GenOn Plant accounts for 37 extra deaths a year, and inflicts an annual health care cost of more than $270,000. Annually, the pollution coming from the GenOn plant is responsible for 60 heart attacks, 610 asthma attacks, 28 hospitalizations and 23 cases of bronchitis each year, according to the task force.
    
The companies that merged to form GenOn have a long history of destructive environmental practices that are destroying other communities. In 2010 the majority of the coal burned at the plant came from sites in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia that are known to harvest coal through the devastating practice of mountain-top removal mining, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration Throughout the majestic Appalachians this practice, in which mountains are blown up with explosives and the waste rock is dumped into valley streams, has destroyed more than 500 mountains and buried 1,000 miles of streams. 
    
Northern Virginia receives pollution from this plant, but none of the energy it produces. The plant generates the least amount of energy of any coal plant in the D.C. area by operating at only 18 percent of its capacity. The energy is transmitted from Virginia into a regional grid that sends power to D.C. and Maryland, but is not required to keep the lights on. 
    
Corporate polluters like GenOn have long chosen profits over the health of our communities and families. This particular plant has been making us sick for nearly half a century, and continues to devastate our neighboring communities. While I strongly support the agreement the city has reached with GenOn to reduce some of the pollution coming from the plant, I cannot ignore the devastating impacts this plant will continue to have not only our children and families, but to all the communities in our neighboring cities and states. 
    
Join me and other citizens who are continuing to fight this plant by visiting genoffpotomac.com to learn how you can become involved. 
    
You can help turn GenOn off.

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Alexandria Times Staff

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