GenOn permanently shutting Potomac River coal plant

Oct. 1 marked a significant milestone for the city of Alexandria, Va., and its residents, which is the permanent closure of GenOn Energy’s (NYSE: GEN) coal-fired Potomac River power plant, the city said.

Located just outside Washington, D.C., the 482-MW coal plant has been the subject of much attention from the general media and environmental groups in recent years.

“For several years this facility has been the single largest source of air pollutants in Northern Virginia,” the city said in an Oct. 2 statement. “Its closure is a culmination of intense and unwavering efforts by the residents and the City Government for more than a decade. From the City’s perspective, operation of [Potomac River] had been a serious public health issue. In response to citizens’ concern, the City Council adopted a resolution in 2004 stating the City’s policy to clean up [the plant] in the short term and close it down permanently in the long term.”

The city participated in the state regulatory process which resulted in the issuance of a comprehensive permit for this plant in 2008 having tight emission limits that conform to all National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The same year, the city and GenOn also reached a settlement requiring GenOn to spend $34m on improved stack gas and fugitive fine particulate matter controls in addition to the $35m the company spent on its stack merge project aimed at mitigating air quality issues in the plant vicinity. Subsequently, before the city and GenOn committed to installing the improved baghouse technology, the two parties reached agreement in August 2011 to permanently close the facility by Oct. 1, 2012, in exchange for the return of about $32m to the company.

On Sept. 27, 2012, GenOn notified the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) that it will no longer operate any of the coal-fired boilers or generate electricity at the Potomac River as of midnight on Oct. 1. GenOn will work with VDEQ in making a mutual determination that the plant is permanently shut down on or before Dec. 31, 2012, the city noted.

GenOn spokesperson Misty Allen on Oct. 2 confirmed the plant has stopped producing electricity.

“Located on the Potomac River just south of Reagan National Airport, the Potomac River Generating Station is a 482-megawatt capacity coal-fired station and began operation in 1949,” said the GenOn website. “The station has units which operate at baseload, intermediate and peak levels. Consistent improvements have been made to the Potomac River Generating Station to reduce air emissions and make operations more efficient. Investments in new equipment and technology have reduced sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions more than 70 percent, decreased oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions up to 55 percent, and capture more than 98 percent of particulate matter, including flyash.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.