Mirant challenges Air Board


On May 23, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board ordered the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to issue a temporary order allowing continued normal operation of Mirants Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria until July 1, at which time significant restrictions will be imposed. On May 31, Mirant sued the Board, calling its decision arbitrary, capricious, in violation of due process, not supported by the record and outside the Boards authority.

The Boards 3-2 decision came after two days of public hearings in Alexandria. It is clear that the three members of the Air Board who voted to order DEQ to issue this temporary permit based their decision on their own personal bias against coal-burning power plants and made an unlawful attempt to delegate to the City of Alexandria the states authority over air quality. The Air Board did not rely on the facts and the record that they are supposed to assess. They did not apply the laws and regulations that they are charged to uphold, said Bob Driscoll, CEO of Mirant Mid-Atlantic.

The majority members of the Air Board gave Mirant no choice but to seek a legal remedy for reasonable, lawful environmental standards to operate the Potomac River plant. DEQ is the agency with the expertise, Driscoll added. DEQ and Mirant agreed on a Consent Order that set emissions limits well under those required by law, but that still allowed the plant to operate. DEQ stated repeatedly at the hearings before the Air Board that the Consent Order it proposed was more protective of the environment and public health than the temporary permit the Board ordered DEQ to issue. The Air Board, which has no technical expertise, arbitrarily rejected the views of the states own experts and instead told them what to do.

While the city had no comment on Mirants suit, City Council members were pleased with the Boards decision. We believe that the Board did the right thing, said Councilman Paul Smedberg, who co-chairs the Mirant Monitoring Group. This 50-year-old coal-burning power plant clearly presents a health risk to Alexandrians and should be closed.

Council has still not made a decision about appealing two recent court decisions regarding the Potomac Generating Station that went against the city. Mirants suit is just another court action in the protracted battle between the company and the city over the power plant.