ANC6B Wants AOC to Justify Higher Power Plant Emissions Request
Will Sierra Club File Suit on Emissions Plan?
by Larry Janezich
ANC6B seems set to ask the DC Department of Energy (DDOE) to force the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) to justify the request to set baseline emission limits for future operation of the Capitol Power Plant – including the planned two new cogeneration burners – at the higher levels experienced during the cold winter years of 2007 – 2008 rather than lower levels of more recent years. In addition, the ANC is likely to ask DDOE to test air quality near the plant to assess impact on the local health index since DDOE doesn’t currently monitor air quality in the power plant neighborhood.
At Tuesday night’s ANC6B Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, chaired by Francis Campbell, commissioners agreed that their purview is emission limits and health concerns. The corollary issue of whether the plant should eliminate the use of coal – a position supported by neighbors of the plant and environmental activist groups including the Sierra Club – is evidently not within the authority of the DDOE and hence, not a question which can be considered by the ANC. To that end, Councilmember Tommy Wells has introduced legislation to limit or end the use of coal as a fuel in DC.
The application of the AOC for the higher limits on emissions translates – for opponents – into permission for the AOC to continue burning coal at the plant. The AOC has indicated that this would only be in emergency circumstances, but this stipulation would not be enforceable.
The Planning and Zoning Committee agreed by a vote of 8-0 to forward a letter to DDOE on the issue to the full ANC for consideration at the February 12 meeting. The purpose of the letter, according to one commissioner, is to make sure the AOC doesn’t get more emission authority than it needs and to urge that emissions in the nearby neighborhood are measured and given consideration regarding the impact of the plant on the health of the neighbors and schools in close proximity to the plant.
Approval of the letter at next Tuesday’s meeting is likely, if not assured. While DDOE apparently cannot require the plant to eliminate the use of coal, it can require the use of a lower baseline for emissions. One knowledgeable source familiar with the issue speculated that if the application goes forward as is, the AOC will face a Sierra Club lawsuit. For additional background see postings on this blog on January 25 and December 18.