Dominion Plant Gets Conditional Approval in Va.

Fri July 18, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Steve Szkotak - ASSOCIATED PRESS



RICHMOND, Va. (AP) A state board gave final approval June 25 to Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed $1.8 billion coal-fired power plant in the far southwestern corner of the state.

The 5-0 decision by the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board includes conditions intended to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and mercury. It also requires Dominion to convert a coal-fired plant in central Virginia to natural gas.

The vote was the last major hurdle to construction of the 585-mW Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in Wise, about 150 mi. (241 km) west of Roanoke. It is scheduled to go on line in 2012.

In a statement, the utility said: “We have not yet had the opportunity to review the final permits, but this decision paves the way for us to start construction in the very near future.”

Proponents have said the energy plant would create jobs in the economically depressed region and a new market for Virginia coal. Environmentalists have raised health and safety concerns about mining of coal for the plant and the effects of the sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions.

Dominion has said the Wise County plant would generate enough power for 146,000 homes.

Bill Hayden, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said the board’s approval was conditional on Dominion reducing sulfur emissions from a proposed 2,469 tons (2,240 t) per year to 603 tons (547 t) annually.

While the company would also have to reduce its planned mercury emissions from 8 lbs. (3.6 kg) annually, Hayden could not immediately provide the new, lower number expressed in pounds.

Cale Jaffe, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center opposed to the plant, said the advocacy group would study the ruling and could challenge it in court.

“I think that’s something we’re certainly considering,” he said.

Jaffe said the center was pleased with reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions, but were still calculating the ordered reduction in mercury emissions.

The company also would have to convert its oldest coal-fired plant in Virginia to natural gas, Hayden said.

Dominion has previously said it was willing to convert its Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County as part of its plan to build the Wise County plant.

The two units now in use at Bremo were put into service in 1950 and 1958.

Dominion has said the plant is necessary to meet increasing power needs and will help the environment by using waste coal that leaks acid into the region’s water. It will be designed to accommodate equipment to capture carbon dioxide emissions should that technology become commercially available.

The construction phase could create 800 jobs, and 75 workers would be employed once the plant was on line. It also would support more than 250 coal-mining jobs.