Emergency Order To Resume Limited Operation at the Potomac River Generating Station, Alexandria, VA, in Response to Electricity Reliability Concerns in Washington, DC
Pursuant to 10 CFR 1021.343, the U.S. Department of Energy is issuing this Notice to document emergency actions that it has taken, and to set forth the steps it intends to take in the future, to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in the matter described in this Notice. On August 24, 2005, Mirant Corporation, and its wholly owned subsidiary, Mirant Potomac River, LLC (collectively referred to herein as Mirant), ceased operations at its Potomac River Generating Station (the ``Plant'') in Alexandria, Virginia, after modeling that it conducted indicated that the Plant's operations were causing exceedances of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) of the Clean Air Act. On the same day, the District of Columbia Public Service Commission (DCPSC) filed with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE or ``Department''), a petition for an emergency order pursuant to section 202(c) of the Federal Power Act (FPA), asserting that the Plant's closure reduced the reliability of the electrical supply to much of the central business district of the District of Columbia, many federal institutions, the Georgetown area in DC, as well as other portions of Northwest DC, and the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority's Blue Plains Advanced Water Treatment Plant (collectively referred to herein as the ``Central DC area''), placing these electrical customers in risk of a blackout. After an exhaustive review of the facts, and consultation with Federal and state officials responsible for environmental compliance and the private entities responsible for electricity transmission, the Secretary of the Department of Energy on December 20, 2005, issued an emergency order (the ``Order'') directing the Plant's owner, Mirant, to generate electricity at the coal-fired Plant under certain, limited circumstances. The section below on ``Further Information'' includes information on how to obtain paper and electronic copies of the Order. In emergency situations such as this one, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Regulations Implementing the Procedural Requirements of NEPA at 40 CFR 1506.11 provide that a federal agency may take an action with significant environmental impacts without observing the provisions of the NEPA regulations associated with preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Instead, the agency should consult with CEQ to determine what alternative arrangements the agency will take in lieu of preparing a normal NEPA EIS. DOE has consulted with CEQ about alternative arrangements it will take in this matter and is publishing this notice to inform the public of those arrangements pursuant to DOE's NEPA regulations at 10 CFR 1021.343. Consistent with its consultation with CEQ, DOE will implement the following alternative arrangements: (1) Prepare a Special Environmental Analysis (SEA) that will examine the potential impacts from issuance of the order, and identify potential mitigation measures; (2) provide opportunities for public involvement by disseminating information related to the environmental effects of Mirant's operations and by accepting public comment on this notice, the compliance plan Mirant submitted to DOE, and the SEA; (3) continue consultations with appropriate agencies with regard to relevant environmental issues; and (4) identify in the SEA any steps that DOE believes can be taken to mitigate the impacts from its Order.