Board: Reach an agreement or else


The Virginia Air Quality Review Board said Tuesday officials of Mirant Potomac Power Plant, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) and the City of Alexandria will have to come to an agreement about how the power plant is going to operate by April 10 or the board will decide for them.

Considering that VDEQ was prepared to issue an operating permit that would have allowed Mirant to merge their stacks and emit more pollutants, I think its a victory, said Alexandria City Councilman Paul Smedberg, one of the co-chairs of the Mirant monitoring group.

The city had gone to the Air Quality Review Board hoping to impose stricter monitoring on the plants operations. VDEQ presented three different permits, recommending the one that allowed Mirant to internally merge the stacks, paving the way for increasing the height of the stack, thus dispersing emissions over a much larger area so that those emissions are not concentrated in areas immediately adjacent to the plant. The city, which has fought for several years to close the plant entirely, wanted much stricter monitoring.

We dont want them to be allowed to merge the stacks and just pollute neighboring jurisdictions and we dont want them to be able to use modeling data to determine daily operation levels, said Councilwoman Redella S. Del Pepper, the other co-chair of the Mirant monitoring group. The five Alexandrians who spoke did a wonderful job, as did our staff and our outside counsel. Now, I guess we will see what happens between now and April 10, said Pepper.

The board told the three parties to meet and try to come to an agreement. Robert Driscoll CEO of Mirant Mid-Atlantic said, Mirant is eager to take this opportunity to work with the city and the Virginia DEQ to arrive at a reasonable and viable operational plan for the Potomac River Plant that will enable us to continue environmental improvements at the plant while providing essential, reliable and affordable energy to the D.C. metropolitan area.

 We are hopeful that these discussions will result in an agreement that protects the environment and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), including allowing Mirant to complete the stack merge project and increase the height of its stacks to better protect the NAAQS. The new consent order should utilize monitored data to assure compliance with provisions of the consent order and achieve NAAQS compliance.

The first meeting is scheduled for Friday, March 30.