Alexandria’s coal-burning power plant, scheduled to shut down Oct. 1 after years of local opposition, must pay a $280,704 fine for violating air-quality laws, the largest such fine ever imposed against the plant.
The GenOn Potomac River power plant, whose five stubby smokestacks loom over the north end of Old Town Alexandria, exceeded its nitrogen oxides limit six times between June 28 and July 18, 2011, according to a consent degree issued by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board last week and agreed to by GenOn.
Asked why the penalty was so high, Sarah Baker, regional enforcement manager for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said “Compliance history is taken into account when we’re assessing fines.”
The company has been fined before, and the most recent penalty was $5,000 more than the largest previous fine, assessed in May.
The 482-megawatt plant has been operating intermittently this winter, due to low natural gas prices and the mild weather, said GenOn spokeswoman Misty Allen. In the past week, however, several of the plant’s units were fired up after PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of electricity in the Mid-Atlantic region, said additional electricity was needed.