Sunday, June 9, 2013

Bad News for DC Residents: Coal Burning at the Capitol Power Plant Can Continue…for now

On Thursday, June 6th, the District Department of Environment (DDOE) issued a permit to the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) allowing the Capitol Power Plant (CPP) to construct a cogeneration system. The permit sets emission caps (notably NOx and SO2) until the facility is completed at 2007-2008 levels — when coal accounted for 50 % and rejects the community's and the Sierra Club's demands for a firm endpoint to coal burning at the plant.

The CPP is already DC’s largest emitter of emissions, but the DDOE permit allows the CPP to burn coal until and 18 months after the co-generation facility is completed. Coal burning flies in the face of Mayor Gray’s recently announced Sustainable DC Initiative which calls for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2032.  That’s unlikely to happen as long as the CPP burns coal.  In an attempt to pacify residents, the Mayor’s office issued a press release announcing “The Ban on Combustion of Coal Act of 2013” which essentially mirrors the DDOE permit. The press release notes that “The facility’s ability to restrict coal usage … is entirely dependent upon completion of the cogeneration project and achievement of the commercial operation date.”  Now the AOC needs to go to Congress to secure funds for the co-generation plant – a process that could result in DC residents breathing high levels of coal emissions for several more years.

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