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Pepco Vows to be Good Neighbor, Keep Substation in Old Town

As power company GenOn dismantles its plant in North Old Town, Pepco says it will remain and work on remediation efforts.

Power company Pepco plans to operate its substation indefinitely on its site in North Old Town so that it can serve customers in Washington, D.C., Maryland's Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well as areas in Northern Virginia.

It does not serve power to the City of Alexandria.

“Pepco will continue to be a good neighbor. We will continue to have the substation and we’re working closely with GenOn on remediation,” said Wes McNealy, director of environmental services for Pepco parent company Pepco Holdings, at a Thursday night meeting.

GenOn officially shut down its electricity generation operations Oct. 1. Pepco's substation was connected to the plant and it owns the land leased by GenOn.

McNealy outlined for the North Old Town Independent Citizens Association, or NOTICe, the steps the substation is taking to disconnect from the GenOn power plant.

McNealy said the change gives Pepco the opportunity to “improve the environmental footprint of the station” by disconnecting from the power plant’s sewer system, collecting storm water and upgrading to newer, quieter equipment.

He explained in layman’s terms how the power flows through super, high-voltage cables under the river to the substation, along George Washington Parkway toward the Pentagon and into D.C., feeding neighborhoods such as Georgetown and Foggy Bottom, among many other places.

McNealy noted that Pepco spent $100 million in 2007 upgrading underground cables should the plant shut down.

“We have no plans to redevelop, but to disconnect,” he said.

An attendee asked if the substation could be moved. McNealy said its current 3.5-acre footprint that sits on the entire 25 acre GenOn site could be reduced in size “at a cost.”

“It can be shrunk, put underground or we could move it back,” he said, but added that it would cost about $500 million to make those changes or about “double that” to move the plant to the other side of the Potomac River.

Because of the high price tag, it’s highly unlikely any of those alternatives would reach fruition, according to McNealy.

“If a redeveloper comes to the table, we’d work with them,” he said. “We’ve had no discussions with redevelopers.”

A proposal put forth by American Clean Skies to redevelop the site was generally pooh-poohed by the audience as an inconsequential public relations “effort by the natural gas industry.”

McNealy said the Washington, D.C.-based environmental group never approached Pepco about the substation before it released its plan.

GenOn Vice President for Asset Management Misty Allen said “they’ve skipped town” and “never come forward.”

City Principal Planner Nancy Williams said the Planning and Zoning Department would like to address updating the North Old Town Small Area Plan, including the GenOn site, beginning in fiscal 2014, subject to council approval.

For details on more about what the GenOn representative said at the NOTICe meeting, see GenOn Dismantles Plant but Company Merger Slows Process.

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