Front Porch Blog

Capitol Power Plant to burn only gas

By Robin Bravender, E&E reporter

(05/01/2009) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced today that the aging Capitol Power Plant will no longer burn coal, a practice that has long been criticized by environmental groups.

Stephen Ayers, the acting architect of the capitol, has reported that coal would be burned at the plant only if it is needed as an emergency backup. The Architect of the Capitol made the transition to natural gas as the primary fuel source for generating steam in March, according to a statement from Pelosi’s office.

In February, days before a scheduled protest against coal combustion at the plant, Pelosi and Reid called on Ayers to switch the plant entirely to natural gas (E&ENews PM, Feb. 26).

“For years, the Capitol Power Plant has been the largest source of carbon emissions on the Capitol Complex,” Reid said today. “The Architect’s switch to cleaner burning natural gas shows that the House and Senate are leading by example in reducing our emissions. I look forward to working with the Architect’s office to achieve even greater energy savings and efficiency through our greening programs.”

The nearly century-old plant, located just south of House office buildings, has been a contentious issue for years in Congress. Environmentalists and D.C. residents have continually called for the plant to stop burning coal, while lawmakers from coal-producing states have fought efforts to switch the plant entirely to natural gas.

Converting another boiler to burn natural gas will allow the plant to eliminate the use of coal even in the case of emergency situations, Ayers told Pelosi in an April 24 letter. The conversion could be completed as early as November 2010 or as late as October 2011, he said.





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