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GenOn Closure Announcement is 'Historic Day for Alexandria'

Local politicians, activists praise agreement to close plant; potential redevelopment of plant land will not alter waterfront discussion

Proponents of closing GenOn Energy’s Potomac River Generating Station lauded the news Tuesday that .

“This was a long fought but well won victory for the citizens of Alexandria and the nation's capital,” U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-8th) said in a statement. “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.”

Del. David Englin (D-45th), who represents parts of Alexandria as well as parts of Fairfax and Arlington Counties, called the agreement a “major victory for the people of Alexandria,” but asked citizens to focus their efforts on ensuring GenOn hits the Oct. 1, 2012 closure date for the plant.

"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,” Englin said in a statement. “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."

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), who , called the announcement “great news.”

“I am relieved by GenOn’s decision to close the Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria, Va.,” Gray said in a statement. “Doing this will relieve the District of the burden of this pollution that is adversely affecting the health and well-being of our residents, particularly those in Ward 8.  Additionally, as a nation, we must begin to aggressively deploy technologies that will relieve us of our addiction to coal-fired power plants that can detrimentally impact public health and the environment. This is a step in the right direction.”

The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and other organizations participating in the “GenOff” campaign to close the plant staged a press conference Tuesday afternoon next to the facility.

Every representative said the announcement to close the generating station was the culmination of 10 years of work starting at the grassroots level.

“We look forward to a day when this corporate entity, GenOn, shuts down more of these plants,” said Robert Gardner of Greenpeace.

Keith Thirion, lead Virginia organizer with CCAN, said the plant is one of the largest sources of planet-warming carbon emissions in the Washington, D.C. area. The retirement of the plant, he said, is a necessary step in preventing the impacts of climate change on the region.

Greg Staple, CEO of the American Clean Skies Foundation, called it “a historic day for Alexandria and the Washington region,” adding that the ill-effects associated with plant emissions have increased healthcare costs for nearby residents. 

three weeks ago to close the plant and redevelop the land with mixed-use buildings.

In a statement released earlier Tuesday, Staple said, "We look forward to working with the city to open up the riverfront to the public and make this site a clean energy showcase and job creator.  

“Once GenOn did the math, it looks like the company came to the same economic conclusion we did: This site is simply more valuable for other uses." 

Alexandria City Councilman Paul Smedberg, who attended the press conference, said there are concerns about the 25-acre plot because of the hazardous materials it has housed for 62 years.

However, he did say the area had the potential to be a “gateway to the city” considering its location along near Alexandria’s northern border and along the Potomac River.

“This really has a chance to redefine North Old Town,” he said.

Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille said Tuesday morning that the announcement to close the generating station would not alter current discussions about redeveloping Old Town’s waterfront.

“I think the Council and the community is committed to moving forward with the waterfront process,” Euille said.

Boyd Walker, chair of the Greater Alexandria Preservation Alliance, released a personal statement Tuesday afternoon urging to suspend consideration of the current waterfront plan and that a new plan be drafted with consideration to the GenOn site.

“I hope that the Chamber of Commerce, The Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, Old Town Civic Association, The North Old Town Civic Association and others to join me in asking that the city set aside the proposed plan so that we can come up with a new plan acceptable to citizens, that includes the GenOn site, as well as looks at the impact of development on all of Alexandria, not just a small area,” he wrote.

Walker is also co-chair of Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, a group that opposes the commercial development in the city’s designs for the waterfront.

• Patch editors Shaun Courtney and Sharon McLoone contributed to this report.

Lewis August 31, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Yaaaaay! God forbid that someone produce some of the power that we use more and more of every day. I'm sure the same luddites that drove this plant to closure will rail against "Big Coal" or whoever the boogeyman of the day is when their rates climb. Maybe the land could be used for a candle factory, since that's where we're headed ...
Boyd Walker August 31, 2011 at 12:35 PM
America Clean Skies Foundation unveiled a proposal to redevelop the site with a gas fired power plant. But this has been one of the most polluting plants in the DC area and has helped prevent us from meeting Air Quality Standars. It not only contributes to Maountain Top Mining in West Virginia, but it has made people ill. One of the people who has linked his illnesses to the plant was at the news conference. There are also many ways the plant could be repurposed, inluding additional parkland for the Mt. Vernon Bike Trail.
Jeff August 31, 2011 at 03:45 PM
Yeah Lewis, that's what we need, to use more power every day....we don't need breathable air, clean water, or a habitable planet. Why don't you and your Tea Party friends build a spaceship fueled with coal power and go live on an asteroid, if you survive breathing the air in your coal ship.
Jeff August 31, 2011 at 04:03 PM
Thank you Sierra Club for saving our community and our planet!
Drew Hansen (Editor) August 31, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49th), who is running for state senate in the 30th District, released this statement about the plant's closure on Wednesday afternoon: “I congratulate the Alexandria City Council, especially Councilmembers Paul Smedberg and Del Pepper, for their successful efforts to close down the GenOn Plant in Old Town. Further, I commend Elizabeth Chimento and Poul Hertel, whose work to close this plant has shown once again that dedicated citizens can change our community for the better. Their perseverance has led to real progress in our region’s struggle to improve our air quality. With the coal-burning GenOn plant scheduled to close next October, we must recommit ourselves as a state to investing in clean energy resources. We can all breathe a bit easier knowing the pollution from GenOn will be ending, but that doesn’t mean we can stop our efforts to create a greener and cleaner Virginia for future generations.”
Kay August 31, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Is this plant the one at the end of N. Royal and is it also called Mirant?
Drew Hansen (Editor) August 31, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Yup. Mirant was rolled into GenOn in 2010.
Sarah Buente September 01, 2011 at 09:34 PM
The Potomac River Green (PRG) project that American Clean Skies Foundation has released does NOT include a gas-fired power plant. It is an environmentally-friendly, mixed-use community plan with a clean energy technology incubator. Full details of the redevelopment plan are available at www.potomacrivergreen.com. To read the full report, please visit: http://www.potomacrivergreen.org/sites/default/files/PRG_RedevBook_08.04.11_v2_3.pdf.
Maria June 19, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Do you think that the GenOn coal plant will REALLY close on October 1, 2012? My health isn't so good already, and I am considering living in Harbor Terrace, but I don't want to make the move IF the plant will remain open beyond October 1, 2012 due to the fact that it is needed in any capacity. Does anyone know how likely it will in fact close on Oct 1?? Thank you!
Drew Hansen (Editor) June 19, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Maria, see this story: http://delray.patch.com/articles/genon-plant-will-close-on-or-before-2012-deadline Council has brought it up a few times and said it will close by the Oct. 1 deadline.
Maria June 19, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Thank you Drew! I am grateful for your prompt response and the favorable news that the coal "power plant is not critical to maintaining power in the region" and that "it was determined that reliability would not be affected by closing the plant." I am so happy to hear this. Thank you for writing this article.

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