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District Issues Air Quality Permits for Cogeneration Equipment at the U.S. Capitol Power Plant

Thursday, June 6, 2013
Permits clear way for Architect of the Capitol to cease burning coal in the District

The District Department of the Environment (DDOE), effective today, issued four air quality permits to the Architect of the Capitol (AOC).  The permits allow the construction of cogeneration equipment and limit allowable plantwide emissions at the U.S. Capitol Power Plant (CPP) for the first time in its history.  It also clears the way for AOC to cease burning coal after the cogeneration plant is commissioned and operational.

DDOE made the permits official after a thorough review process that included public comment periods and meetings with community and environmental groups.  DDOE has determined that the permits will help to improve regional and local air quality. 

The new construction will involve installing two cogeneration units, which are highly efficient, clean fuel-burning technology that will allow the facility to both provide steam heat and generate electricity for use at CPP and the buildings it services. The equipment will be primarily fired on natural gas, with fuel oil as the backup fuel, and will also allow CPP to reduce its reliance on older, dirtier fuel burning equipment, particularly the units that still combust coal.

The four permits issued are as followed: an operating permit for an existing boiler; two construction permits -- one for each cogeneration unit; and a Plantwide Applicability Limits (PALs) permit, containing facility-wide emission limits on nitrogen oxides (NOX) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The two construction permits for the cogeneration units also contain plantwide limits on Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) and a condition banning coal combustion, except in cases of force majeure and for testing and tuning, starting 18 months after the commercial operation date of the cogeneration project.

The permits are expected to provide a net benefit to air quality in the District because they will:

(1)       Reduce AOC’s reliance on older, dirtier equipment in favor of the efficient, cleaner burning cogeneration equipment, resulting in notable reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and HAPs from the facility;

(2)       Alleviate regional pollution by reducing CPP’s reliance on the electrical grid, much of which is supported by coal burning power plants, resulting in net regional reductions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), and Greenhouse Gases (GHGs); and

(3)       Place facility-wide emission limits on CPP for the first time ever – the permits will lower CPP’s emission limits from the equivalent of 925 tons per year (tpy) for NOX, 82 tpy for PM2.5, and 257 tpy for HAPs, to 197 tpy for NOX , 35 tpy PM2.5, and 25 tpy for HAPs.

“Ensuring that the residents of the District are able to breathe clean air is a top priority for Mayor Gray and his effort to make this city the cleanest, healthiest, most livable city in the nation,” says Keith A. Anderson, Director of DDOE. “We believe that the issuance of these permits is a great step in the right direction.”

CPP became operational in 1910 and was originally designed to provide heat and electricity to the U.S. Capitol. CPP eliminated electrical energy production in 1951, and the power plant currently provides steam and chilled water to 23 facilities on Capitol Hill, including the House and Senate office buildings, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress.

Contact: Donna Henry (DDOE) 202.299.3338; [email protected].