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Coal to be banned in nation's capital

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced June 7 new legislation that would ban coal-burning power facilities in the District of Columbia.

The move comes in conjunction with permits issued by the District Department of the Environment to the Architect of the Capitol to construct a new cogeneration facility that will allow the Capitol Power Plant to stop using coal to produce power for facilities on Capitol Hill. 

Built in 1910, the Capitol Power Plant produces steam and chilled water to heat and cool over 17 million square feet of building space in 23 facilities on Capitol Hill including the Capitol Building the House and Senate office buildings and the Supreme Court.

It has seven boilers, two of which can burn coal.

In recent years, its operators have shifted away from coal, burning 56 percent coal in 2007 but only 5 percent coal in 2011.

The cogeneration plant now permitted will produce both heat and electricity, increasing the efficiency of electricity used on Capitol Hill from 33 percent to at least 60 percent. That increased efficiency, combined with the reliance on natural gas and only on fuel oil and not on coal as a backup fuel, will clean up emissions of air pollutants in the region.

"In conjunction with the permits DDOE issued today, this legislation will help District residents breathe more easily for years to come," said Gray. "My Sustainable DC initiative aims to make the District the nation's greenest, healthiest, most sustainable city in the country in the next two decades – and eliminating coal emissions from the Capitol Power Plant is a key victory in achieving that goal."

The Ban on Combustion of Coal Act of 2013 would ban coal burning in the District beginning 18 months after the commercial operation date of the Capitol Power Plant's cogeneration project, except in instances of force majeure and for testing and tuning.

It also would strictly limit facilities to burning coal for no more than 72 hours per emissions unit, per year, and only for the purposes of tuning and testing. Testing and tuning are required by the federal Clean Air Act and District regulations.