Politics and Technology – Lead by Example? Not in Washington, DC

The single largest carbon emitter in the capital city of the United States is the Capitol Power Plant located a scant 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) from the White House. The energy this plant generates heats and cools the 23 buildings operated by the federal government including the Capitol, Library of Congress, congressional office buildings and the Supreme Court. And what does Capital Power use as a fuel? – coal.

The reason it does has nothing to do with accessibility to other fuel sources. It is the coal lobby in Congress and the Senate that has instituted this practice even though numerous plans have been proposed to convert the plant to natural gas.

The plant began operations in 1910. Its output provides steam and chilled water, not electricity. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which has been established to monitor the Clean Air Act, is not involved at this time in looking at Capitol Power’s output. So the plant continues to spew significant amounts of nitrous dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone in addition to CO2 into the air of Washington, DC.

A proposal has been made by the EPA to begin the process of establishing PAL levels at Capital Power. PAL stands for Plantwide Applicability Limit, an agreed to emissions allowance looking at all sources of pollutants. But that means measuring baseline actual emissions for an extended period of time to create the PAL.

Congress remains indifferent to the plant and its impact on the District of Columbia. No money has been allocated to overhaul the plant. No ban on using coal. Just total lack of interest.

What a wonderful example for the United States and what a statement about the federal government’s commitment to address CO2, air pollution and the implications for climate change.

I’m not an American and this has me seething. Why isn’t raising red flags in congressional districts across the entire country? And why aren’t the people who live in Washington, DC, up in arms about such an abdication of responsibility by those in Congress who are breathing the same air?


Capitol Power Plant Washington


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...