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Life Along the Potomac

What federal regulators should do to ensure security, reliability, and cleaner air in our nation’s capital.

Fortnightly Magazine - September 2006

concerns involving the central D.C. area. Thus, during line outage situations, Mirant was directed to operate the Potomac River plant “to produce the amount of power needed to meet the load demand in the Central D.C. area, as specified by PJM and in accordance with the DOE order.” While the EPA order imposes certain obligations on Mirant to limit, to the extent feasible, its emissions from the plant, it stated that Mirant’s obligation was not diminished to produce the amount of power needed to meet the load demand in the central D.C. area in compliance with the DOE order. In addition, the EPA order provided for specific operating constraints on the plant in non-line outage situations to minimize emissions. On the same day the EPA took action, the DOE issued an order incorporating the requirements set forth in the EPA ruling for non-line outage situations, thereby integrating both the reliability and environmental imperatives for the plant’s continued operation.

The extraordinary federal regulatory activity precipitated by the DCPSC’s petition illustrates a successful approach that may be used to address the difficult regulatory and security issues lying at the intersection of energy, environmental, and national security law. With the nation’s generating fleet and transmission grid rapidly aging, conflicts between the need for these facilities to continue to operate and the often outdated technological processes they use are likely to intensify and occur more frequently. The cooperative inter-agency process that was developed in the Mirant case provides a working solution to resolve such conflicts by allowing all interested parties to address the issues at stake, without losing the focus on the grave security and reliability implications of a critical facility’s shutdown.



1. See Order No. 202-05-3, Docket No. EO-05-01 (Dec. 20, 2005).

2. See Re District of Columbia Public Service Commission, 114 FERC ¶ 61,017 (2006).

3. See Re Mirant Potomac River LLC, et al., Administrative Compliance Order by Consent, Docket No. CAA-03-2006-0163DA (2006).