Environmentalists seek to block Dominion plant

Associated Press • Feb 24, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROANOKE, Va. — Environmentalists go to court this week in an effort to block Dominion Virginia Power’s 585-megawatt coal-fired power plant under construction in the state’s southwestern corner.

The Virginia Supreme Court is to hear arguments Wednesday in an appeal of the State Corporation Commission’s approval of the $1.8 billion project in June.

The challenge filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of four groups contends the law authorizing construction of the Wise County plant is unconstitutional — violating the Commerce Clause — because it requires the plant to burn Virginia coal.

In a separate case in Richmond Circuit Court, the groups are challenging the legality of air emission permits issued for the plant.

The plant’s supporters say it will create jobs and a new market for coal mined in economically depressed southwest Virginia.

Dominion spokesman Greg Edwards said Tuesday that nearly half of the roughly 400 construction workers on the site were hired locally.

Workers are laying building foundations on the site outside St. Paul, Edwards said, and there are no plans to halt construction while the court cases are pending.

Construction is more than 20 percent complete, he said. Dominion could have 1,600 to 1,700 workers on the site by the beginning of next year.

Dominion plans to employ 75 people at the plant when it goes into operation, which is scheduled for 2012. It also could support more than 250 mining jobs.

In the other challenge, the environmental groups contend the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board’s failure to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions does not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements.

The law center’s clients are the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club.

Dominion also is in court over operation of its North Anna Nuclear Power Station.

Company spokesman Dan Genest said Dominion will appeal a Richmond Circuit Court judge’s decision last week to revoke Dominion’s water-quality permit.

Judge Margaret Spencer agreed with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League’s contention that the permit violates the Clean Water Act by allowing Dominion to discharge heated water from the power station into a lagoon.

Dominion has contended that the lagoon where the water from the two reactors is cooled is a waste facility, not a water impoundment. Water from the lagoon eventually drains into the main lake.

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