Mirant moves forward with stack merger

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Last week was a good week for Mirant. The company decided to move forward with its internal smoke stack merger and a Richmond Circuit Court judge denied the City of Alexandrias motion to intervene in Mirants lawsuit against the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board.

Mirant proposed the internal stack merger some time ago. We have always contemplated the internal stack merger as the second part of the work we began at the Potomac River Generating Station with the injection of Trona into the stacks, said Debra Raggio Bolton, vice president and assistant general counsel for Mirant. This merger will completely eliminate any down wash problems [a condition where air pushes down any particles that is emitted from a smokestack] and will make the plant even cleaner, environmentally. Trona is a mineral that, when injected into the smoke stacks, reduces the amount of fly ash.

The 50-year-old coal-fired power plant has five smoke stacks. The internal merger will eliminate the need for three of those. We have no plans to remove the three smoke stacks at this point because its unnecessary. They simply will not be in use, Raggio Bolton said.

Alexandria officials and citizen activists have tried unsuccessfully for several years to close the plant, citing health concerns. Virginia Congressman James Moran (D-8th) has supported the citys efforts by applying pressure to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U. S. Department of Energy to better regulate the plant. His reaction to Mirants decision to move forward the stack merger was swift.

Mirants actions are unilateral, disrespectful and in total disregard for the environmental laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, said Moran. The Department of Environmental Quality must sign off on any structural changes made by this outdated coal-fired plant. Mirant is sticking its dirty thumb in the publics eye, going above the law to carry out their polluting ways. DEQ must not allow its authority to be usurped by these bullying tactics.

Vice Mayor Redella Del Pepper, co-chairs the Capital Mirant Monitoring Group, said, This is typical of Mirant. They want to continue operating just as they want without regard for the fact that merging these stacks requires a permit or permission not to have a permit. This is just awful, she said.

Bolton said that no permit was required. We have consulted with a number of outside legal sources and have been assured that no permit is required for us to move forward with the stack merger, she said. We had hoped to increase the height of the stacks but are not pursuing that at this time because that would require permits from the city and we know that requests for those permits would be denied.

Another court victory for Mirant
On Aug. 15, a Richmond circuit court judge ruled that the City of Alexandria would not be permitted to be part of a suit that Mirant filed against the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board. The same judge heard arguments from both sides on Mirants motion to stay the Air Boards strict operating permit for the Potomac River plant but did not rule on that matter.

The city will ask the Richmond circuit court judge to reconsider his decision on allowing them to intervene in Mirants suit against the Air Board. The judge is on vacation so will not rule on that request until sometime in September.

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