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DDOE to Hold Public Hearing on Proposed Air Quality Permits for US Capitol Power Plant (CPP) Today

Monday, December 17, 2012

The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) will hold a public hearing on proposed air quality permits for the Capitol Power Plant (CPP) today, Monday, December 17, 2012 at 5:30 p.m. The hearing will take place at DDOE’s headquarters, located at 1200 First Street, NE, Washington, DC.

The permits propose constructing and operating a combined heat and power system (cogeneration system).  This proposed combined heat and power system will be primarily fueled by natural gas, with fuel oil as a backup, and will not burn coal. 


CPP provides steam for heat and chilled water for cooling purposes in various federal government buildings, including the U.S. Capitol. Two of the large boilers at CPP can and have historically burned coal. Their coal use, however, is quite small compared to most coal burning facilities. AOC has applied for a series of permits to allow the installation of a highly efficient natural gas fired cogeneration system at the facility, which would reduce their reliance on the coal burning units.  The proposed permits do not modify the existing permits for the coal burning units. The permits would, however, establish for the first time facility-wide emission limits, which would in effect limit, but not ban, coal usage at the facility. The hearing will allow DDOE to receive comments and input on the proposed permits from the public before making a final determination on permit issuance.

The proposed permits would not allow CPP to return to coal burning, as some have suggested, because the plant currently burns coal as it has since the early 1900s.   The proposed permits would also not roll back emission limits in order to allow the power plant to burn more coal. The permits actually propose to significantly lower the emission limits at the power plant and therefore limit the amount of coal that CPP can use. The existing air quality permits allow CPP to burn an unlimited quantity of coal.  While AOC may have contracted to purchase up to 40 million pounds of coal, coal is typically measured in tons. 40 million pounds of coal equates to 20,000 tons, which is approximately one percent of what a typical coal-fired power plant burns in one year.

DDOE welcomes the opportunity to assess all recommendations put forth on this issue and will arrive at a decision once all comments submitted at the public hearing on Monday have been properly reviewed.  The agency maintains, however, that the proposed permits are not the appropriate vehicle to ban coal usage at this facility. 

In general, the District supports the responsible deployment of efficient energy generation technologies, such as cogeneration and trigeneration. These technologies use less fuel and have lower emissions of conventional air pollutants and greenhouse gases (GHG), which is consistent with the Mayor’s vision for a Sustainable DC. 

For more information, please contact Stephen Ours, Chief of Permitting Branch in DDOE’s Air Quality Division, at 202.498.8143.

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