ALEXANDRIA, VA: Atlanta-based Mirant is fighting city officials, residents, and the Sierra Club to keep open a 55-year-old facility that provides power to electricity customers in the Washington, DC, metro area.
Efforts to close the coal-powered plant reached a crescendo with a June 11 protest in the heart of Old Town Alexandria. Residents have long been concerned over the level of harmful emissions that are produced by the generator.
Mirant contends that shutting the plant, which generates 482 megawatts, would jeopardize electric reliability in the region.
For the recent protest, organized by the Sierra Club, Mirant sent three representatives from its corporate communications office to answer questions from residents and to talk to the media. One of the messages Mirant has tried to convey is that it has spent tens of millions of dollars over the past two years to bring the plant into compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental regulations, said Dave Thompson, Mirant's manager of media relations and corporate communications.
Mirant has ramped up efforts to communicate to residents that the company has reached new levels of investment to attain higher levels of air quality, Thompson added. "I think local [residents] understand that. It was unfortunate ... that the Sierra Club decided that they wanted to get into the act and create some news."
Mirant uses outside PR firms for some projects, but efforts related to the power plant are being handled in-house.
"In an effort like this, our credibility with that community is what's key," Thompson said. "It's critical to us that the face of the company, that the people speaking for the company, are from the company."