Mirant and city continue sparring


Last weeks excessive heat created a need for more electricity than usual throughout the region, focusing attention once again on the Mirant Potomac River Generating Station.

On Wednesday, Aug. 9, thermometers at Washington Reagan National Airport registered 102 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature there in a decade. PJM, the company that manages the power grid for the mid Atlantic, needed all the power that was available to meet customer demands.

They called our operations manager and asked if we could put our other two units on line but we couldnt because that violates our temporary permit, said Debra Raggio Bolton, vice president and assistant general counsel for Mirant. That clearly shows there is still a need for the plant, even with the new Pepco lines up and running.

Those lines run under the Potomac River, carrying electricity from Pepcos station at the Mirant plant to Washington, D.C. The lights arent going to go out in the Capitol but there is still a regional need for power, especially as development continues, Bolton said.

Alexandria officials have been fighting, in the courts and with regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels, to close the 50-year-old coal-fired plant for more than five years. Activists and health officials site concerns over emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide as valid reasons for wanting the facility closed.

We have been monitoring sulfur dioxide levels using the monitoring stations that are set up to test levels of emissions at the one and three hour periods, Bolton said. We have been monitoring sulfur dioxide emissions at five minute levels since April.

Many tests conducted
According to data provided by Mirant, there have been more than 160,000 tests since April 13. In 93 percent of those tests, there have been only ten parts of sulfur dioxide to one billion parts of air sampled. The U. S. Environmental Agency only becomes concerned at 600 parts per billion, Bolton said.

We are committed to making certain that the plant is as clean as we can make it and we are responding to any complaint we receive in a very aggressive manner. We want to be good neighbors, Bolton said.

Alexandria City Councilman Paul Smedberg, the co-chair of the Mirant Monitoring group, said, This new data doesnt really mean very much because of where the monitors are placed.