Days before a scheduled protest against coal combustion at a Washington, D.C., power plant, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called today for switching the plant to natural gas.
"The Capitol Power Plant continues to be the number one source of air pollution and carbon emissions in the District of Columbia and the focal point for criticism from local community and national environmental and public health groups," the Democrats said in a letter to acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers.
The nearly century-old plant, which sits 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 to keep the plant running on coal.
Under Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative, the House has shifted from coal to natural gas for the percentage of hot and cool air that it uses. The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing last June about reducing coal use even further, but the plant has not eliminated coal from its fuel mix.
The cost of switching completely to natural gas is $7 million, Ayers told the Senate panel.
But Pelosi and Reid said today that they wanted to identify and support funding to retrofit the plant, if necessary, to operate on 100 percent natural gas.
"While the costs associated with purchasing additional natural gas will certainly be higher, the investment will far outweigh its cost," they wrote.
Protest still happening, say organizers
On Monday, a coalition of advocacy groups is planning a protest at the power plant, which organizers are calling an iconic symbol of the nation's reliance on the dirty fossil fuel (E&E Daily, Feb. 5).
Protest organizers issued a statement applauding Reid and Pelosi's letter but saying their plans would proceed.
"The more than 2,500 people coming to Washington to call for a solution to the climate crisis and an end to the use of coal are still coming because the climate is still in crisis and coal is still driving that crisis," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Rainforest Action Network. "Today's move reflects Congress' growing awareness that the public is demanding change."
Click here to read the letter.