Sierra Club Applauds Retirement of Potomac River Coal Plant

Alexandria, Virginia–(ENEWSPF)–August 30, 2011.  Today, Mayor William D. Euille of Alexandria and GenOn Energy, Inc. announced the planned retirement of the Potomac River Generating Station, a sixty-two year old coal-fired power plant on the banks of the Potomac River in Alexandria. The announcement set the retirement date for October 1, 2012. Since 2003, the Sierra Club has worked on an extensive organizing campaign targeting the plant for responsible retirement due to its extensive health effects to the families of Washington, DC and Northern Virginia.

“Today’s announcement of the retirement of GenOn’s Potomac River coal plant is a triumph for the residents of Alexandria and the D.C area,” said Sierra Club’s Executive Director Michael Brune. “Retiring this major source of pollution in our nation’s capital signals a huge symbolic step towards moving the nation beyond coal. But the win today didn’t happen overnight. It is a culmination of many years of hard work by local activists and concerned residents. Pollution from this coal-fired power plant has been making local residents sick since 1949 – contributing to heightened asthma rates, respiratory illnesses and other health problems. Retiring the Potomac River coal plant will mean cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier children and families.” 

The Potomac plant is a coal-fired station situated on the banks of the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, directly across—and upwind from—D.C.’s Ward 8. Recent Sierra Club pollution modeling results demonstrate that unhealthy levels of soot and smog travel downwind from the plant directly into Ward 8, affecting the health and well-being of thousands of D.C. residents both within and beyond the ward.

Over 400,000 residents in Virginia and Washington D.C. are put directly at risk by pollution from the power plant. According to recent analysis by the Sierra Club the plant releases 702 tons of sulfur dioxide and 725 tons of nitrogen oxides into the air annually. This pollution generates a deadly haze which can trigger asthma attacks, respiratory illnesses, and contribute to heart disease, cancers and other illness. Nationally, pollution from coal-fired power plants is responsible for billions of dollars in health costs and lost work and school days.

“As the District of Columbia ramps up its reliance on solar power and energy efficiency, we should ensure that the workforce at the Potomac plant are responsibly transitioned into the clean energy sector,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “We should look at the retirement of this plant as an opportunity to create good jobs as well as cleaner air.”

“We’re pleased to see that GenOn is taking steps to retire this plant as soon as possible,” said Phillip Ellis, field organizer with the Sierra Club. “A recent study shows that the reliability of our energy will not be affected by the Potomac plant’s retirement. Not only is this plant unnecessary, it’s contributing to illness on both sides of the Potomac. We’re glad to see that it will be taken offline as soon as possible.”

Recently the Sierra Club joined forces with Michael R. Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, and his Bloomberg Philanthropies to combat the dangerous health effects coal fired power has on children and families across the nation. The announcement of a $50 million dollar gift to roll back the threat of coal-fired pollution was held just outside the plant in Alexandria.

“This is a great step forward for the Beyond Coal Campaign, but an even more important victory for the people of Alexandria, VA,” said Mr. Bloomberg. “They have been fighting to close this plant for decades and now their hard work, passion, and commitment to take action to improve the lives of their families and their community has paid off. I also want to offer congratulations to Representative Jim Moran and Alexandria City Mayor William D. Euille as well, for leading the way for their constituents. There are millions of people across America committed to putting our country on a new energy path and communities like Alexandria are on the front lines.”

For more information about the Sierra Club’s campaign to move beyond coal, please visit: