- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The District yesterday asked federal officials to reactivate an Alexandria power plant that was shuttered this week over pollution concerns.

The District’s Public Service Commission filed the petition because of fears about the reliability of the city’s power supply following the closure of Mirant Corp.’s coal-fired plant, said Sabrina Greene, deputy counsel for the commission.

“We don’t think it will be overnight that the electricity will stop running,” she said. “We’re talking about long-term issues if it’s not addressed.”

The commission filed the request with the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) after ordering Pepco Wednesday to devise a plan for making sure lights stay on during periods of heavy demand.

The Energy Department can demand immediate action from the nation’s power entities that it deems necessary to counter threats to the country’s electric supply, as it did during the Northeast blackout in August 2003.

The department will work with FERC and other government agencies over the next few days to determine the closure’s effects on the region, said spokesman Craig Stevens.

FERC also can order the power plant into operation after a hearing process that began yesterday afternoon.

Mirant closed the generator Wednesday night because it could not agree with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality on a plan to reduce pollutants in its emissions. Department tests showed that levels of some pollutants around the plant exceeded federal standards at times. Neighbors had long complained about the gray soot that coated surfaces in the area.

Unless federal agencies step in with an order to resume service — as the D.C. petition has requested — the plant will remain shut until its engineers devise a cleanup plan that satisfies authorities in Virginia. That could take up to several weeks, said Mirant spokesman David Thompson.

“The plant is shut down and will remain so either until we are able to complete these tests, or until we’re told that we must run by parties that would determine that we are necessary for reliability,” he said.

Mirant was keeping the plant on standby for the first 24 hours following the shutdown, so it could be restarted quickly if ordered to do so, the company said. After that time, it would take several days to restart.

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