Generating Change: Quitting Coal in the Nation’s Capital

by Robert Gardner

August 1, 2011

Shut Down Alexandria Coal Plant!

This Saturday, 30 activists decided to take action to shut down the 514-megawatt Potomac River Coal Plant in Alexandria, Virginia. This comes as the coalition campaign to shut down the plant is heating up. GenOn – a Houston-based coal, oil and gas energy company – was sent a clear message that this polluting dinosaur is unwanted by the community.

This unnecessary power plant gives nothing but bad health to the local community. Though nearly 140,000 people live within three miles of the plant, the plant does not keep a single light on. It emits about 145 pounds of mercury into the air every year, in addition to tons of other hazardous pollutants. Over the past year, the plant has dumped hundreds of gallons of oil into and around the Potomac River, had dangerous acid leaks on its property, and has continued to decimate fish in the Potomac. By burning mountaintop removal coal, the plant is contributing to the destruction of central Appalachia (a treasure of biodiversity) in addition to poisoning communities in both Maryland and Virginia where it dumps toxic coal ash.

It’s time to sack the stacks, shut it down and bid farewell to this relic. A coal free Alexandria. I like the sound of that. Others do as well.   

You might have seen students rally at PowerShift – where thousands took action at GenOn’s lobbying offices. Just this month, based on Sierra Club’s modeling results, Washington, DC is going to be petitioning the plant to stop poisoning DC residents. Last week, Clean Skies’ reliability study found that the GenOn Potomac River Power Plant is not necessary and can be retired without any service disruptions. Also, today, our newest video on Alexandria is being published (see below).

One of the best parts of the day (besides seeing how fired up the community is to get rid of this dangerous plant) was working with our amazing frontline canvassers, who were out early to train the community in effective canvassing techniques. Also, the enthusiasm of our Greenpeace Semester students was absolutely contagious – if you are in college, you should definitely sign up for this.

Alexandria’s waterfront has so much potential that GenOn’s coal plant is squandering. Instead of creating costs in the form of hospital visits and lost productivity, the waterfront could generate revenue and much needed urban green space for the community without polluting the air and water and making people sick. We will make this future a reality. This weekends work is just a step in harnessing the grass roots power of a community that wants this plant to shut down.

We will continue to hit the streets to build our strength in Alexandria and send a strong message to GenOn that it’s us or them — and we ain’t a-leavin’.

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