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    Dominion releases plant pollution estimatesDominion releases pollution estimates for proposed Chesterfield power plant

    September 14, 2023 - LUCA POWELLRichmond Times-Dispatch


      Early details about the pollution impact of a proposed power plant in Eastern Chesterfield County were released on Wednesday.

      The plant has been labeled controversial by state regulators, drawing community pushback." target="_blank">Dominion Energy says it's needed to keep pace with increasing electrical demand.

      A summary of the plant's proposed permit was presented to the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board on Wednesday by officials from the" target="_blank">Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

      To produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity, the new plant would release as much as 28 tons of sulfur dioxide, 344 tons of nitrogen oxides and 819 tons of carbon monoxide, according to Dominion's permit application. All four are toxic air pollutants that require strict monitoring by the Environmental Protection Agency.

      Overall it would emit up to 2.2 million tons of greenhouse gasses into the air, the application says.

      By some measures, those numbers describe a plant that would be more efficient than its cousins across the state. Its neighbor, the" target="_blank">Chesterfield Power Station, produced 25 times as much sulfur dioxide before it retired older, coal-fired units in May. The new plant will have no coal-fired units.

      Mike Dowd, director of the agency's Air and Renewable Energy Division, said that it will likely take time to approve a final permit. All the current limits in Dominion's application are early data points that could be changed in the months to come.

      State air quality modelers will now model their own versions of the plant's pollution output to see if their numbers conform with Dominion's estimates. State estimates could be ready early next year.

      "The project will go over extensive air quality modeling," Dowd said. "In the permit process, DEQ will determine whether or not these controls and emission rates meet the best available control technology standards required under the clean air act and federal law for a power plant such as this."

      The plant, which Dominion is calling the Chesterfield Energy Reliability Center, will sit next to the existing power plant in an industrial park along the James River. lt has been labeled controversial because it will exceed 500 megawatts, and therefore requires officials like Dowd to present details on the permit to the board.

      Dominion says the one-mile radius around the proposed plant is mostly industrial, although there are some residences.

      The plant will only run part-time, which is why it's being called a "peaker plant," meaning a plant that kicks on only to cover demand at peak times.

      Legislation passed in 2020 tasked Virginia's two main energy suppliers, Dominion Energy and Appalachian Electric Power," target="_blank">to produce 100 percent renewable electricity by the year 2045 and 2050, respectively. The law has carve outs, however, which state that both companies may keep burning fossil fuels if necessary to avoid power outages.

      The company's most recent long-term plan hedges on that carveout. Virginia's main electric grid has told the company that electricity is likely to more than double over the next 25 years. To meet need, Dominion says it needs to keep a number of fossil-fuel plants online.

      "This project, the Chesterfield Energy Reliability Center, is all about reliability and keeping our customers' lights on - especially on the hottest and coldest days of the year," said Jeremy Slayton, a spokesperson for Dominion.

      Slayton said the company is also "all in on renewables."

      "We're building the largest offshore wind project in North America; we have the second largest solar fleet in the nation, and we're building battery storage in communities across Virginia. In fact, over the next 15 years, more than 85% of the new power generation we're building is zero-carbon - offshore wind, solar, battery storage and small modular reactors," said Slayton.

      Dominion has already held a community meeting in June, which attracted 85 people, the permit said. Slayton says more meetings are planned.

      The plant is already being publicly opposed by local organizations, like the Chesterfield NAACP.

      "This community has endured close to 80 years of air and water pollution associated with Dominion's recently retired coal plant," said Nicole Martin, President of the Chesterfield NAACP. "They don't deserve to be burdened with another polluting fossil fuel power plant in their backyard when alternatives exist."

      Sierra Club activist Glen Besa was the only member of the public to speak at the board hearing. Besa described the board as caught between a "schizophrenic administration."

      Besa said the schizophrenia is a result of the tug-of-war between the Virginia Clean Economy Act and Gov. Glenn Youngkin's open-armed embrace of fossil-fuels, part of his" target="_blank">"all of the above'' strategy on energy reliability.

      Besa questioned how Dominion planned on becoming a net-zero emitter by 2045 if regulators approve the company's new Chesterfield plant.

      "This methane gas power plant is Dominion's down payment on an investment in climate chaos," Besa said in a press release. "Dominion Energy's CEO, Bob Blue, is clearly putting greed and short term corporate profits over the well being of our children, of future generations."

      Ultimately, the Air Pollution Control Board no longer has a final say on the proposed plant. Legislators" target="_blank">removed that power from the board in 2022.

      Previously, the board had" target="_blank">imposed tighter environmental limits on Virginia power plants than DEQ or companies themselves had proposed. Now the permitting process is entirely within the hands of DEQ.

      Prior to the event, Besa and a handful of environmental activists from Third Act Virginia put on a skit to illustrate their point. Two activists, dressed as Youngkin and Dominion CEO Robert Blue, "raced to climate oblivion" in inflatable dinosaurs costumes.

      The group released a press release stating that Blue and Youngkin are "defying state climate statutes as Virginias suffer through extreme weather and record hot temperatures as a direct result of climate change."

      This year, the planet notched the hottest June on record, although Virginia was spared much of the heat wave until Labor Day Weekend," target="_blank">when temperatures peaked at a high of 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

      Luca Powell (804) on Twitter


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