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Coal- And Oil-Burning Capitol Power Plant Next Door to White House


09capitol_337-articleLargeWhile President Obama is carefully laying out big plans for tackling climate change and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, a powerful power plant is continuously burning coal and diesel fuel oil just two miles away from the White House.

The Capitol Power Plant provides electricity to the whole of the Capitol campus, including the building operated by the Congress. While the grand policies are being discussed and businesses are being fined if they do not comply with the new regulations on emissions, the toxic fumes from the outdated plant are no where near harmless.

It would be wrong if we do not mention that there have been a few efforts to stop the use of coal as a primary fuel of the plant, firstly in 2000 and then again in 2007. The first time, this intention met the powerful opposition of coal-state senators, while the second time the Republicans stopped the funding of the initiative.

The use of coal has been brought down significantly since the year 2000, however it has never been replaced by a ‘greener’ alternative, let’s say natural gas. The main reason for this, as they all claim, is the cost of modernization, however some critics go as far as to claim that the ‘dirty’ fuel is used as a political statement.

It all comes down to ineffective regulations. The facility does have to acquire the needed permits and submit emissions reports, as everyone else, but the responsible agencies are not making a big effort to ensure that everything is up to standard. Finding evidence and records on the plant’s emission history is near impossible. Some critics such as Mike Ewall, the founder and director of the Energy Justice Network, a grass-roots organization supporting clean energy, even dare to say that there is no adequate testing system to regulate and check emission limits.

What is more, while officials within the Government Accountability Office claim that they have conducted the necessary checks and have produced the needed reports, the managing director of the power plant states that he has not been asked for the needed information in the past 5 years.

It is quite difficult to understand why such facility operates right in the heart of the capital city. Earlier this year, the plant obtained all documents needed to ensure that it operates legally, however the Congress has not allocated funds towards modernizing it and ensuring the use of natural gas instead of coal or oil.

Let’s hope that this will change soon, if not to protect the health of the citizens, then at least to set an example.

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