November 23, 2011

Virginia coal plant not a "go" yet

The largest yet coal-fired power plant in Virginia hit a snag when a Surry County Circuit Court judge ruled that a zoning change approved last year was not valid because it was not properly advertised to the public.

Many area environmentalists welcomed this delay in Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's (ODEC) proposed 1500-megawatt power plant as good news. ODEC had announced last year that they'd delay building the plant by 18 to 24 months because of a slowdown in energy demand and uncertaintly in new regulations.

Also, Isle of Wight's Board of Supervisors voted recently to oppose the power plant. More and more nearby folks may be realizing that the power plant will emit mercury and other toxic particles into our air. And the prevailing winds will carry most of that over the James River and into the Hampton Roads and Williamsburg area.

Any hopes for "clean coal" technology disappeared in the near future when American Electric Power (AEP) suspended a $668 million clean coal project this past summer after Congress faild to set any limits on carbon emissions. This project could have resulted in many new jobs, so it's a "lose-lose" as far as I'm concerned. The good news, however, was AEP's summer announcement to close down five older coal-burning plants by 2014.

The EPA is sticking to its guns on cross-border-pollution from plants in neighboring states. It's not simply a matter of "pick your poison"--increased coughs or increased costs. The coal industry claims that cutting pollution will cost them $18 billion per year, and the consumer will pay this. But they fail to see or admit the economic benefits. The EPA folks say that the plant upgrades will cost $2.5 billion per year, and provide $280 billion in public health benefits (fewer death, hospital stays and sick leave days).