Senate Democrats

Reid, Pelosi: Capitol Power Plant To End Burning Of Coal; Only To Be Used As Emergency Backup

Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today announced that the Capitol Power Plant will improve air quality in the District of Columbia and reduce the carbon pollution impact of Congress by using natural gas as the sole fuel source for steam used at the Capitol complex to heat buildings and water.
At the request of Senate and House leadership, Stephen Ayers, the Acting Architect of the Capitol has reported coal will only be burned going forward if backup capacity is needed because:

  • heating needs exceed the capacity of the natural gas pipeline currently serving the complex (which will be upgraded in cooperation with the utility provider);
  • abnormally cold conditions place higher than normal demands on the Plant; or
  • equipment outages on the gas boilers require a backup.

“For years, the Capitol Power Plant has been the largest source of carbon emissions on the Capitol Complex,” Reid said.  “The Architect’s switch to cleaner burning natural gas shows that the House and Senate are leading by example in reducing our emissions.  I look forward to working with the Architect’s office to achieve even greater energy savings and efficiency through our greening programs.”
Said Pelosi: “The Congress of the United States should not only be a model for the nation, but also a good neighbor. American ingenuity is producing the technology that will lead the world in cleaner and safer energy, and American can-do spirit is leading us to refit our homes and offices for efficiency and cost-savings.  As we green the Capitol, moving the Capitol Power Plant from the 19th century to the 21st century is a crucial step, and I commend the Architect of the Capitol and his team who are making this transition happen.”
Cleaner natural gas has been an increasingly large part of the fuel mix supplying the Plant.  The Architect of the Capitol transitioned to natural gas as the primary fuel source for generating steam in March of this year.  In 2008, 65% of the energy used at the Plant to create steam was generated from natural gas.  Moving forward, the Architect of Capitol will use only natural gas for generating steam, and resort to coal only as a backup fuel source.   The Capitol Power Plant has been singled out by the D.C. government for its impact on air quality, and the health of residents and workers in the area—particularly on the respiratory health of children.