WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that GenOn Holdings, Inc., a major U.S. fossil-fuel power producer, is required to pay $2.5 million to the District to resolve allegations that one of its powerplants illegally discharged oil and other pollutants directly into the Potomac River. Following an investigation, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleged that GenOn’s Potomac River Generating Station, a now-closed coal-fired powerplant located in Alexandria, Virginia, allowed oil to seep from underground storage tanks into an abandoned stormwater drainage system and into the Potomac. The company also repeatedly ignored the District’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) orders to cease polluting. GenOn will be required to pay $2.4 million in civil penalties to the District, as well as $50,000 to improve drinking water quality and $50,000 to support environmental enforcement training for District government employees.
“The District has strong environmental laws to protect our waterways, precious natural resources, and the health and wellbeing of our residents,” said AG Racine. “Polluters are on notice: the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Energy and Environment will investigate and hold law breakers accountable for endangering the District’s air, land, and water.”
GenOn Holdings, Inc. is an energy company headquartered in Texas that owns and operates fossil-fuel powerplants across the country. GenOn, formerly known as NRG Potomac River LLC, owns the coal-fired Potomac River Generating Station located in Alexandria, Virginia next to the Potomac River. It was permanently closed in 2012.
The District of Columbia is responsible for overseeing water quality in the Potomac River. From approximately January 28, 2010 through September 2, 2012, DOEE documented unauthorized discharges of oil and other pollutants from the Potomac River Generating Station into the Potomac River. DOEE instructed the plant’s owners to stop the unauthorized discharges, but the company failed to comply, and in 2018, DOEE referred the matter to OAG. Following an investigation, OAG alleged that that NRG Potomac River LLC, GenOn’s predecessor, discharged oil and other pollutants from former stormwater drainage pipes directly into the Potomac River on at least 93 separate days between 2010 and 2013. OAG also alleged that the company failed to report about 70 of these documented discharges to DOEE as required; failed to comply with DOEE orders to plug or seal the pipes discharging pollutants; and knowingly made false statements to DOEE, among other violations.
The settlement agreement with OAG requires GenOn to:
- Pay $2.4 million in civil penalties to the District: GenOn is required to pay $2.4 million to the District to resolve allegations that the company unlawfully discharged pollutants into the Potomac River more than 90 times, failed to report a majority of those discharges, made false statements, and other alleged violations.
- Pay $50,000 to improve the water quality of the Potomac River: GenOn is required to pay $50,000 to the Potomac River Basin Drinking Water Source Protection Partnership. This funding will be used to improve water quality and expand the Potomac River Spill contingency plans, such as an early warning system and spill modeling capabilities.
- Pay $50,000 to support environmental enforcement training: GenOn is required to pay $50,000 to the Northeast Environmental Enforcement Project to assist in enforcement training for DOEE staff.
"The Bowser Administration is committed to protecting the environmental integrity of our shared waterways" said DOEE Director Tommy Wells. "The DC DOEE will continue to monitor and enforce water quality standards and hold accountable those who violate them."
A copy of the settlement agreement is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/GenOn-Settlement.pdf
OAG’s Environmental Work
Over the last two years, OAG has deployed additional resources (supported by the D.C. Council) to protect the environment and address persistent local environmental problems, including those that disproportionately impact low-income communities. For example, OAG filed suit against Ward 5 businesses that repeatedly spilled toxic oil into streets and District waterways and forced a landlord to clean up toxic lead paint that put children at risk. OAG is deeply involved in the District’s ongoing cleanup of the Anacostia River and recently filed a lawsuit against agrochemical company Monsanto for contaminating the District’s natural resources with toxic chemicals. Greyhound, in a settlement with OAG resolving a lawsuit over air pollution violations at Union Station, will adopt national bus anti-idling policies nationwide. Additionally, OAG has joined numerous multistate lawsuits to stop the Trump administration from rolling back critical environmental protections, such as auto emissions standards and Clean Water Act rules.
Report Environmental Violations
District residents are encouraged to report suspected violations of environmental law to DOEE by:
- Calling 311
- Using the DC 311 mobile app