Dominion’s Wise Co. coal-fired power plant violates federal law, clean energy advocates tell court
Lawyers for the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition told a state judge today that Dominion Power's 585-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Wise County violates the Clean Air Act on several grounds, and asked the court to invalidate the environmental permits.
During the four-hour hearing before Judge Margaret Spencer in the Virginia Circuit Court for the City of Richmond, Cale Jaffe and John Suttles, attorneys with the Charlottesville-based Southern Environmental Law Center, presented a detailed explanation on how the permits fail to adequately limit emissions of (1) carbon dioxide, a chief contributor to climate change, (2) small particles of soot, which has been linked to lung cancer, heart disease, increased asthma rates, and premature death, and (3) mercury, which can cause severe neurological deficits in infants, fetuses and young children.
The State Air Control Board issued two permits to Dominion in June, 2008, one for hazardous pollutants including mercury and approximately 60 other toxics, and one for other emissions such as particulate matter. SELC, on behalf of the Wise County-based Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Sierra Club, challenged both permits.
Several residents of Wise County traveled to Richmond to attend the hearing, including Kathy Selvage, a coal-miner's daughter who has been the public face for the statewide effort to stop the coal plant, end the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining that is ravaging Appalachia, and compel Virginia to embrace clean energy sources, including efficiency and renewables.
“It seems no coincidence that Wise County was all over the news recently for the free medical clinic that drew thousands of people from my part of the state, many of them with breathing disorders. Coal dust from mountaintop removal mining operations hangs in the air every day, as does pollution from one of the oldest coal-fired plants in the state. Now Dominion is building another polluting power plant in our community. That's why we are in court today – to fight for the right to breath clean air, as well as to drink clean water and to keep our mountains whole, as God made them.”
Over the last several years, the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition has raised a host of concerns about the Wise County coal plant, including air pollution and the health of the local community, water quality, mountaintop removal coal-mining, and the impacts of global warming. They were joined by 42,500 Virginians from across the state who signed petitions and sent letters and comments to state and company officials opposing the project.
The Judge indicated at the end of the hearing that she will have a decision by the end of next week.