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Dominion decries delay of permit for St. Paul power plant

Staff • Mar 21, 2008 at 12:00 AM

ST. PAUL — A state regulatory agency’s request for more information about a proposed power plant in Wise County will cause unnecessary delays and costs to the project, Eastern Virginia utility Dominion claims.

“It is disappointing that after so much work has been done and so much information provided that the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board stepped in at this late date to remove the decision-making authority from the environmental professionals of the (state) Department of Environmental Quality,” the utility said in a press release.

Dominion said it will “do everything possible” to provide the information about the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center the utility wants to build in St. Paul. The 585 megawatt coal-fired power plant is estimated to cost $1.8 billion, and Dominion wants it operational by 2012. Site preparations began last year.

“An extended delay — much beyond 60 days — in granting the air permit could result in a very significant increase in costs to Dominion and its customers as some construction contracts likely would have to be renegotiated,” the utility said.

Dominion has spent more than $6 million over the last two years for studies of the proposed project and other expenses related to the air permit. The utility says emissions from the new power generating station will meet or exceed all current environmental laws and regulations.

In 2004, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to woo utilities into building power generating stations in Southwest Virginia using Virginia coal. With between $4 million to $6 million in projected annual tax revenues for St. Paul and Wise County, local officials have endorsed the project for its economic impact on the region. Critics claim the plant will spew pollutants such as mercury into the environment and inflict health problems on area residents.

If it can proceed with the St. Paul project, Dominion has vowed to convert two coal-fired units at its Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County to natural gas, and thus make reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury and other pollutants. The St. Paul plant would incorporate technology to sharply reduce emissions as well.

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