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Officials Laud GenOn's Last Gasp

Coal-fired power plant ceased operations Oct. 1.

Alexandria officials lauded the closure of the Potomac River Generating Station on Monday, saying the plant’s retirement will bring an end to decades of harmful air pollution and health problems to the region.

“Today is a great day,” said Mayor Bill Euille, calling the closure of the plant, which opened in 1949, “a community success” and a good example of how citizens and the city can work together.

Democratic Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, who was instrumental in championing the plant closure along with many Alexandrians, called the closure a “hard fought but well-won victory” that wouldn’t have happened without citizen engagement.

He said the plant emitted 72 lbs. of mercury in a year and data showed that it was the catalyst for at least 3,000 asthma attacks annually in the region.

“Today closes a chapter on Alexandria’s unwanted resident,” Moran said, adding that Alexandria is now a role model for the other U.S. communities that house the 200 other similar plants that are also exempt from clean air act standards.

Alexandria City Councilmembers Paul Smedberg and Del Pepper also addressed the crowd assembled by the plant, saying the city looks forward to new ideas for the 25-acre site. Smedberg and Pepper co-chaired the Mirant Community Monitoring Group.

Sierra Club Organizer Philip Ellis called the event “a symbol of the change happening across Virginia.”

“The people of Alexandria know firsthand the dangers of having a dirty energy plant in their backyard, and what other communities could face if Dominion continues to build these dirty facilities,” Ellis said. “The retirement of this plant is a great illustration of the power of people coming together to create a clear and powerful reason for a company to finally do the right thing.”

“We hope that our vision plays an important role in redevelopment of the site. The proposed demonstration center could anchor this site, attracting visitors who want to see the promise of cleaner fuels,” said Greg Staple, CEO of American Clean Skies Foundation, in a statement. The foundation has proposed a $450 million plan for transforming the site.

The plant shuttered at midnight Monday and the company took its $32 million in escrow to use at its other facilities.

GenOn owns the lease on the site for another 88 years and must work with power company PEPCO, who owns the land, on how to proceed.

The process leading to the plant closure took years and it could likely take years before plans for development are announced. City Councilman Frank Fannon, who also attended the event, told Patch it could be an eight-year-plus plan on cleaning up the facility. Alexandrians Elizabeth Chimento and Poul Hertel got the ball rolling on the plant's closure between 2001 and 2003 when they brought the city scientific evidence about the adverse effects from the plant on local residents.

Newly minted state Del. Rob Krupicka was also on hand. He told Patch that Virginia needs a better, more comprehensive clean energy policy so that it's not lagging behind other states in this arena.

Andrew Macdonald October 02, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Thank you Poul and Elizabeth. Andrew Macdonald
Cathryn S October 02, 2012 at 10:38 AM
Many thanks to Councilman Paul Smedberg and Council woman Del Pepper for all their work as co-chairs on the Mirant Monitoring Group
matt tallmerq October 02, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Shutting down the plant is a major achivement. But the thought that a private firm will be able to develop it anytime soon absent hundreds of millions of City, state or Federal funds either is naive or ignorant. The site burned and stored high-sulfur coal for generations. The gound and possily the ground water likely are highly polluted -- possibly to the extent of being named a Super Fund or Brownfield site. No private developer is going to foot the bill for the cleanup. How does the Mayor and other folks suggest paying for this? Shake the nonexistent money tree? Raise taxes more? Float more bonds -- the vast majority of which will go to fund the Potomac Yard Metro station?

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