The SW Environmental Justice group continues to research, monitor, report and campaign for improvements within our neighborhood. I was asked to report on some recent developments.

One goal of environmental justice campaigns is to move toward zero waste management systems. This is undoubtedly a long-term goal, but many properties are methodically moving toward it. Tiber Island Cooperative Homes for example installed the city’s first solar water heat system and more recently approved an impervious paving system for its vehicular drives and parking areas. But these improvements can take considerable financial investment and political capacity. Residents living in DC Housing Authority (DCHA) properties are particularly vulnerable – even for seemingly minor resources like recycling bins. Nonetheless, Greenleaf Gardens resident Alvin Bethea attended a Southwest Neighborhood Assembly meeting headlined by Mayor Gray last fall and passionately advocated that DCHA integrate a recycling program at its properties. To demonstrate its feasibility, he handed off a report he had prepared. At the time, the mayor said he’d consider it. After some follow up in the intervening period, we were pleased to see the arrival of (florescent green) recycling bins.

The group is continuing its bus idling campaign. Led by Nancy Masterson, the group caught nearly a dozen buses illegally idling and successfully prompted them to properly comply and/or reported them to MPD. Thankfully, Entertainment Cruises DC also has agreed to update the letter they distribute to tour buses serving their ships so that it reflects the increased idling fines, as reported in last month’s Southwester.

We continue to explore other environmental justice issues, including toxic sites, like the petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in the vicinity of St. Augustine’s Church.

A new topic explored last month was power plants, led by Mike Ewall who is founder and director Energy Justice Network. The group learned that DDOE received a request from PEPCO to cancel its Title V air pollution permit for their Buzzard Point power plant. The long awaited cancelation of the permit would revoke the right of PEPCO or any future owner from running the plant without obtaining a new permit (now under stricter regulations).

Hoffman-Madison-Waterfront (HMW) is planning to build a SW Waterfront Co-generation plant that will produce steam for heating and electricity. The proposed power plant will probably burn natural gas, but might also burn #2 fuel oil as a back-up. HMW is currently going through DC’s Environmental Impact Screening Form process. Ideally, Mike reports, “HMW would design a solar hot water system with passive solar heating integrated in their buildings, to use heat pumps to meet the rest of their heating needs, and to buy wind power from the grid to meet their electricity demand so they don’t need to burn any fuel.”

Under the leadership of Senator Reid and Congresswoman Pelosi, the Capitol Power Plant was to switch from burning coal to natural gas. Although it hasn’t been the wholesale change originally envisioned, the plant has reduced its coal usage. DDOE is now reviewing early drafts of a plan to increase co-generation capacity. Currently it’s just a heating plant, but under the plan it would also become an electricity plant. Two 7.5 megawatt units are proposed, relatively small for a coal power plant.

–By Kael Anderson, President of the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA).

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