By the end of February, many of us were celebrating the announcement that ancient coal-fired power plants in Chicago were scheduled for retirement — as well as additional old coal plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania. It was a feather in the cap for Sierra Club and its Beyond Coal
campaign that began in January 2010.
But sadly, in the small town of Dendron, Va., the elected officials and planning commission recently approved the largest coal-fired power plant to be built in Virginia — in spite of approximately 350 people, many holding signs demanding "NO COAL PLANT!" at the public hearing.
The proposed 1,500-megawatt Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) plant looks like more of a "done deal," but factors may change.
A 2011 report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation concluded that air pollution from the ODEC plant would cause 442 asthma attacks and 26 premature deaths a year, worsen ozone air pollution across the region, and add up to 44 pounds a year of toxic mercury pollution and 921 pounds of lead to the environment annually.
Now the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have to approve permits for the plant, for which ODEC has not yet re-applied, although they say they will in 2013.
ODEC has already purchased the 1,336 acres of land — now zoned for agriculture, and next to homes — for the proposed project in Dendron. If the project moves ahead, ODEC promises about 3,000 construction workers finding work with the project, and about 200 full time employees at the plant.
$5 billion invested in dirty coal? That could go far toward wind, solar or hydroelectric energy. Or, at the very least, consider burning natural gas in this power plant. I'm no fan of fracking, but gas is a cleaner energy source than coal. Apparently some Virginians want to return to the Dickens era.