Coal-burning power plant fined $275,000

May 12, 2011

Alexandria’s coal-burning power plant must pay $275,500 in civil penalties to the state for numerous permit violations, including excessive visible emissions and not turning in paperwork on emissions monitoring.

The fine was issued by Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on May 6 as part of a consent order with GenOn Energy. The energy company merged with Mirant in December.

“The facility was determined to not be in compliance with several conditions of their state-operating permit issued on July 31, 2008,” said Terry Darton, a DEQ regional air permit manager.

The violations included operating failures to control emissions, using inappropriate fuel and improper emissions controls, among other violations, said Sarah Baker, a DEQ enforcement manager.

Several of the new monitoring systems were installed as part of an agreement among the city, the plant and community activists’ work.

“We’re a little concerned with the amount of scrutiny this plant has been under that there are still these operational problems,” said William Skrabak, Alexandria’s environmental quality director.

“We did experience some operator errors, and at no time was the city at risk,” said Misty Allen, a GenOn spokeswoman.

She said the emissions-monitoring system was new and that there were operational failures. Many of the administrative steps in the consent order will help get that system working properly, she said.

The consent order “is being used as a deterrent to this corporation to better manage the plant and its activities,” said Elizabeth Chimento, an activist. “Whether they will do so? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

The 2008 permit is the facility’s first. These are its first permit violations. The plant came under federal and state regulations once the air quality in the Washington metropolitan region reached unacceptable limits under the Clean Air Act.

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