Alexandria Power Plant to Close

by ARLnow.com August 30, 2011 at 12:11 pm 4,579 46 Comments

(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) The GenOn power plant along the Potomac River in Alexandria will be retired next year, in a victory for local environmental advocates who railed against the coal-fired plant’s carbon emissions.

The 62-year-old plant is expected to close by Oct. 1, 2012, according to a City of Alexandria press release. Alexandria will release $32 million that was being held in escrow to pay for environmental controls at the plant, in order to facilitate its closure.

“Today’s announcement is a path forward for both Alexandria and the power company that works for everybody, and truly reflects the interest of both parties,” Alexandria Mayor William Euille said in a statement. “Both the Alexandria City Council and community have worked extremely hard toward this goal, and we are very proud of the final result.  This news strengthens Alexandria’s future and opens the door to an enhanced quality of life for our residents.”

No word yet on what might eventually happen to the prime waterfront property on which the plant is located. The land is owned by Pepco, according to the Washington Business Journal, but there has been talk of using the land for a nearly half-billion dollar mixed-use project.

Rep. Jim Moran, meanwhile, released a statement praising today’s announcement.

This was a long fought but well won victory for the citizens of Alexandria and the nation’s capital. What once was the largest stationary source of air pollution will be no more. Through citizen involvement and committed city officials, the Potomac River Generating Station and its 1949 coal-fired boilers will finally be shuttered.

Forced to reduce its emissions and scale back its operations to comply with the Clean Air Act as a result of a lawsuit and enforcement actions, Mirant and GenOn were ultimately unable to compete with cheaper and cleaner natural gas powered electricity. Tougher federal regulations now in development may have also convinced GenOn’s management that the $28 million in settlement funds that had been set aside to meet the cleanup terms of the settlement were better than the losses their shareholders were taking trying to keep the outdated plant in operation.

Northern Virginia stands as an example of a prosperous and environmentally-conscious community. Today’s action maintains our commitment to a better, cleaner environment for our region’s next generation. The extinction of this dinosaur of a facility is heartily welcomed.

Del. David Englin, who represents parts of Alexandria and Arlington, also released a statement.

“Every human being has a basic and fundamental right to breathe clean air, which is why so many of us have fought for so long to shut down this dirty, old coal-fired power plant in our midst. This is a major victory for the people of Alexandria that will strengthen our quality of life, and I congratulate all of the officials involved.”

“Our community owes a great deal to the citizen activists who have worked with such unfailing dedication and perseverance to get us to this point. While there is reason to celebrate, the agreement does allow some wiggle room on the closing date, which means we must continue to be vigilant until the day the plant finally and permanently closes its doors.”

Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief

  • charlie

    this is absolutely amazing.
    the largest point-source polluter in the region.
    i hope in my lifetime we can get that site cleaned up and made into some gorgeous uber-luxury condos with a nice waterfront usage that actually allows people to use the water (as opposed to the generic sterile development to the south of it or the NPS “yard” to the north).

    • Do you have an attribution for this:”the largest point-source polluter in the region.”

    • Arlington, Northside

      Uber-luxury condos? So you would like to place an over-priced Clarendon on the waterfront? How about try to return it to nature as much as possible? Maybe place a fishing dock out there? Frankly, I think the development at the south end of Old Towne, Fords Landing, is an excellent reflection of the original colonial architecture of the area. If housing needs to be built there, I would rather have that. The idea of “uber-luxury” disgusts me, while I know it does not have a chance at becoming affordable to the working class, atleast make it lean to the preppy old town style and not the euro/guido style that is creeping into the Arlington scene more and more.

      I think blameing it for as much pollution as the greenies have blamed it for is a stretch, but it obviously was not a clean source of energy either.

      I will miss the occasional chance to see some expert switching work from that dieing breed of railroad workers who have brought the coal in by the train load over the last six decades.

  • CrystalMikey

    So, where’s power coming from now?

    • brif

      That’s up to Pepco, the GenOn plant doesn’t provide power to virginia.

      • Josh S

        Where did the energy go?

    • Jason S.

      The wall.

  • Nico

    Check out the proposed transformation of the site here: http://www.potomacrivergreen.com

  • MC 703

    How much will it cos to clean up the site? Will it qualify as a super-fund site?

    I don’t think I’d want to live here. Makes me wonder what was under my quasi-Shirlington apt bldg before.

  • Steve

    If Moran supports its closing, then it should stay open.

  • Pablo Hector Oritz-Diego

    I hope they can develope the land for something beautiful. Many people including myself would love to live on the Potomac but it not enough condos along it. Knock it down and turn it into a beatiful landscape. This could potentially be the hottest place to live in Northern VA

    • Vik

      I agree. It’s a pretty good site. Let’s hope something great gets developed there. There could be a Potomac Yard Metro Station over there by the time the project is done or shortly after.

      • Vik

        I just read that the metro would be open there at 2016 at the earliest, so that’s not far off. It would be great to have Braddock Road and Potomac Yard stations relatively close by.

  • Postpone the Parade

    The developer is American Clean Skies Foundation–the natural gas lobbyist that wants to go about FRACKING for natural gas wherever it thinks there might be any. In much of North Texas, the gas drillers have done just that.

    They might not frack at this site, but I’m not enthused about the fact that this project will line their pockets.


    • Aaron

      What? Almost all environmentalist lobbies are fronts for other power companies trying to raise their competitors’ costs of doing business?

      • Postpone the Parade

        This group is not an “environmentalist lobby.” It’s a natural-gas lobby. We shouldn’t have to choose between clean skies and clean water.

        • Jim

          Environmentalist use to love natural gas http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/08/bridge_fuel.html. What happened?? so if you are against oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, ethanol, hydropower — how exactly am i supposed to get to work and cook my dinner? you guys are impossible. i’m sorry – but wind and solar just will never be able to support a vibrate economy.

          • Post…Parade

            I’m not against natural gas; I’m against fracking to get natural gas. Until pretty recently, fracking wasn’t possible. If the nat-gas companies would desist in fracking, hardly anyone would oppose them.

          • Jim

            ah – you might want to read a wikipedia article or something — cause fracking has been around for over 50 years. it is not new. and how would you extract natural gas without fracking??? it’s possible, but not practical. please have facts before just making stuff up.

          • Postpone the Parade

            No, you’re the one who needs to check your facts, because until recently, it wasn’t used the way it is now: http://nofracking.com/

            Like some industry proponents claim, fracking has a history that goes back over 60 years–but not in its current form. The first forays were meant to squeeze the last drops from existing traditional wells.

            Also, this: http://www.energyindepth.org/in-depth/frac-in-depth/history-of-hf/

          • Jim

            darling – you need to go to a fracking site… you have no idea what you are talking about.

    • Michael H.

      ACSF is not the developer. The Potomac River Green proposal is just that, a proposal. ACSF does not own the plant. Nor do they have any contractual rights to buy or develop the property. Alexandria can completely ignore and shut ACSF out if they want. I’m sure that once the site is cleaned up, there will be plenty of non-natural gas companies willing to invest in the site and develop it. The demand for quality waterfront property would be quite high, even in this stagnant economy. The addition of commercial and retail space would further improve the profitability of any project.

      • Michael H.

        The following is taken directly from the Potomac River Green website, in the FAQ section:

        ACSF is an educational non-profit that seeks to advance clean energy options for America. It is not a property developer.
        ACSF created the plan for Potomac River Green to catalyze the retirement of the PRGS and help “green” the local power grid. The Foundation will continue educating people about the potential for transforming the PRGS site into a clean energy gateway. Implementing that vision, however, will largely depend on the City of Alexandria, local citizens, GenON, Pepco and, of course, private developers.

  • brian

    Clean Coal! YES WE CAN!

    • PikerShorts

      Forehead palmslap

  • SomeGuy


    • blahnikgal

      I have Dom Power and live in N Arlington. A couple years ago I checked my energy sources, and I found that 20-30% was sourced from this plant…. I used it as a personal goal for reducing my energy consumption by that amount. Sure, it doesn’t ‘work’ that way, but anything to reduce reliance on coal is important.

      • brif

        The GenOn power plant does not provide electricity to virginia. Dominion power does not have the capability to provide energy source information to individual customers.

        • Josh S

          Are you saying she mis-read her statement?

  • Bender

    Instead of increasing our already hyper population density, thereby also increasing the demand for energy and thereby exacerbating environmental problems, they should install a bunch of green-energy windmills on this property.

    Or perhaps they can build a manufacturing plant there to produce green-energy batteries to run electric cars.

    • RosRes

      “hyper population density” – seriously?

    • Josh S

      Uhhhh – let’s try a little thought experiment.

      Build the manufacturing plant here and the new homes necessary to house the growing population out in Prince William County. Those people then get in their cars every day and drive miles to work, miles to school, miles to do errands, etc. Meanwhile, manufacturing plant processing multiple toxic chemicals, etc needed to make batteries is located in the middle of what is otherwise a residential district and right on the Potomac River.


      Build the homes here and the manufacturing plant out in Prince William County. The people living in Alexandria are able to walk to many destinations, take public transportation, take the bike trail, etc for many of their daily trips. Meanwhile, the manufacturing plant is located away from population centers, right on an active rail line (for example) and/or right off an interstate highway so movement of goods in and out of plant is easy, etc.

      I don’t know, which sounds better?

      • Actually, locally generated power is better. Put a solar roof on your place and maybe you don’t have to buy power at all. Or, you can build it out in bum**ck PA. You’ll have to buy power line easements all the way here for the transmission infrastructure, plus pay to install that infrastructure. Oh, yeah, you may not see the pollution but out of sight is out of mind, right?

        NIMBY, big time.

      • Bender

        Build the battery plant in Alexandria. They can employ people in Alexandria or even Arlington to work there. In fact, the people of the urban village could WALK to work at the plant, preventing even more noxious carbon emissions.

  • It’s not just about abstract emissions – it’s about people’s lives. A 2010 study by Abt Associates estimated the plant is responsible for 37 deaths, 60 heart attacks, and 610 asthma attacks a year, among other pollution-triggered medical issues: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Potomac_River_Generating_Station#Death_and_disease_attributable_to_fine_particle_pollution_from_Potomac_River_Station

    • Jim

      what in the world?? you can’t actually believe that? there is absolutely no way to legally attribute a death to the power plant. please use real science — not crazy watch.

    • I think those stats are cr*p, but let’s assume they are true. So, are you telling me it is better to kill folks somewhere else rather than here? LOL You need the power generation to be somewhere! Why not have the jobs here and improve the facility to make it cleaner?

      • charlie

        we have a long and great history of sending our problems elsewhere. where do you think all our computers go? our asbestos ladden ships aren’t dismantled even in the US.
        and what about the 1980’s trash barges?
        as long as we don’t have to think about which back is being abused to bring stuff to market, what do we care?

  • Delray John

    Someone promoting himself as “TheGreenMiles” ( biker?) referenced the 2010 study by Abt Associates that estimated 37 deaths, 60 heart attacks, etc. annually as a direct result of the Potomac River plant’s pollution. It’s a 2010 study, alright, which states that “In 2000 and again in 2004, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force quantifying the deaths and other health affects attributable to the fine particle pollution from power plants. In this newly updated study, CATF examines the progress towards cleaning up one of the nation’s leading sources of pollution.”

    That statement had a footnote: “Data is estimated 2010 impacts.” That means it was projected from the 2000 and 2004 data of previous studies. Over the past several years Mirant has spent millions adding scrubbers and employing a substance called “trona” for reducing the polluting output. My understanding was they’d attained the EPA’s required levels. But the Abt study has collected NO NEW DATA since 2004! This claim of 37 deaths and so forth is BOGUS–it’s a projection based on pre-cleanup data!

    This plant closing, which Rep. Moran has opposed in lock step with his wealthy, influential North Alexandria constituents, reeks of political expediency.


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