Mirant wont go quietly


Virginias Air Pollution Control Board ruled last week that Mirant must obtain a permit before continuing with its internal stack merge at the Potomac River Generating Station. And so begins yet another round in court.

On Friday, Mirant filed a notice of intent to appeal in a Richmond Circuit Court. We believe the Air Boards decision was arbitrary and capricious because the Board ignored the opinion of the experts at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said Debra Raggio Bolton, Vice President and General Counsel for Mirant. 

While the appeal is in process, Mirant has halted all construction activities at the Alexandria plant. We have stopped construction because we want to comply with all orders but this is a very unfortunate occurrence for everyone, Raggio Bolton said. Instead of getting $30 million in improvements to the plant, Alexandrians are simply getting more legal fees.

Representatives from the city hailed the Air Boards decision as a victory. The Air Board did what VDEQ should have done in the beginning, said City Councilman Paul Smedberg, co-chair of the citys Mirant Monitoring Group. This plants continued operation is bad for the health of Alexandrians and allowing the company to go ahead with the stack merge would have meant polluting more of the region.

Mirants battles with the city began nearly five years ago and have been fraught in local, state and federal courts. The Air Board ruled on the narrow issue of whether a permit should be required for the company to merge five smoke stacks into two.

In some configurations, the plant would certainly exceed emissions allowable under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, said Bill Skrabak, the director of the Division of Environmental Health for the City. A permit is required under the U. S. Environmental Protection Agencys New Source Review regulations and we hope that the Air Board will deny such a permit once it is requested.

Suit filed
Mirant does not believe that a permit is required because, we are not asking to be allowed to exceed emissions. We believe that merging the stacks, in conjunction with injecting Trona into the stacks will improvement air quality around the plant, Raggio Bolton said. How is this bad?

Mirant has already filed suit in Circuit Court in Richmond over the Air Boards decision to issue an interim permit significantly limiting the plants operations and increasing the monitoring that is required. The city is hoping to intervene in this case and has appealed the judges decision denying that request. Now, the judge has another appeal. It is unclear whether the city will apply to intervene in this case as well. [RTF bookmark start: }DDE_LINK1To date, Alexandria has spent just over $2.7 million in legal fees pursuing cases against Mirant. Mirant will not disclose how much money they have spent on attorneys.

Virginia Congressman Jim Moran (D-8) has supported the citys efforts to close the 50-year-old coal-fired plant. Without the sharp eyes of local residents, Mirants deceitful, under-the-radar efforts to expand its operations without approval from the Air Control Board might have gone unnoticed&Mirant has been playing fast and loose with the rules and profit continues to trump serious public health concerns. Their contention that smoke stack modifications wont increase pollution must be thoroughly examined, said Moran. Any changes to the plants infrastructure must also be viewed in the broader context that includes the massive injection of Trona into the combustion process. The cumulative changes to the plant and both the use of Trona and the stack merger will warrant a full New Source Review from the EPA, Moran said.