Air board to decide on Mirant

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Virginias Air Pollution Control Board will decide whether Mirant can merge the stacks at Alexandrias Potomac River Generating Station, a decision that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality had intended to make.

There was no formal announcement about VDEQs decision to relinquish authority over the decision to the board. Alexandria activist Elizabeth Chimento learned of the change when she called VDEQ late last week.

We have always believed that the board should make this decision and that the merger of the stacks would subject Mirant to new source review, more stringent monitoring than is currently required, Chimento said. When we learned that VDEQ was prepared to allow the merger, we encouraged Alexandrians to call the governors office and protest.

Alexandrians responded. Most received form letters in reply informing them that VDEQ would make the decision at some time in the future. On June 25, city staff and members of City Council met with representatives from the governors office and asked that the Air Board be permitted to retain jurisdiction over Mirant operations. The governors staff said they would get back to city staff but did not give a time frame.

On July 1, the U.S. Department of Energys order requiring Mirant to keep the Potomac River Generating Station at full readiness to provide backup power for the region expired. The plant is now operating under the order proposed by the Air Board on May 23. Mirant has filed a lawsuit against the board claiming that it has no authority to impose such an order. The city has intervened in that lawsuit on the side of the Board.

The stack merger is a very important issue and, since the Air Board has taken jurisdiction of the plants operating permits, it should continue to see this through to its conclusion, Chimento said.

The city has worked to see the coal-fired power plant closed for more than three years, losing court battles in several arenas. For now, the permit under which the plant is operating is one that the city favors because it limits sulfur dioxide emissions to preset levels. VDEQ went to the plant to check compliance last Friday but will not have the results of the tests until later this week. The Air Board is not scheduled to meet until the fall, probably in early October, VDEQ officials told Chimento.

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