Wise County Coal Plant: Factsheet
Dominion is far behind the curve in addressing global warming. According to a report by MIT, only the most efficient coal plants (known as ‘supercritical’ plants) will be ready to capture carbon when the technology becomes available. The Wise County coal plant is not one of these; it will be an inefficient, sub-critical coal plant, emitting some 5.37 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Other electric utilities – even those relying heavily on coal – are working on technologies to capture carbon. American Electric Power plans commercial operation of carbon capture equipment by 2012 – the same year Dominion wants to bring the Wise County conventional coal plant into service.
According to the Clean Air Act, no major emitting facility may be constructed unless it utilizes the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) for each regulated pollutant. In a landmark ruling in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. EPA that carbon dioxide is a regulated pollutant. SELC is citing this ruling in its case against the Dominion plant.
Denied and Embarrassed
Despite claims by coal proponents, the plant has been designed without any means to mitigate its global warming pollution. In February 2008, Dominion argued that the State Corporation Commission should approve the Wise County plant as “carbon-capture compatible” because it would be located near an empty field where Dominion might consider, but would not commit to, building future carbon controls. Staff for the commission rejected Dominion’s argument, saying:
“[I]t is the Company’s position in this case that the proposed plant is compatible with technology that is, by its own admission, not commercially available or even feasible at this time. In the Staff’s view, this is not logical. As such, the Staff can not support this argument.”
Not only has Dominion not taken any steps to make its plant carbon capture compatible, it has also selected a technology that is in fact incompatible with carbon capture processes currently in development.
In the face of overwhelming evidence debunking its claims, Dominion withdrew its request on carbon capture compatibility. In March 2008, the commission approved the plant as a “conventional coal” facility, ruling that the $1.8 billion to build the plant did not include “any costs associated with retrofitting, or other modifications, to the Coal Plant to make it carbon capture compatible.”
In other words, not one penny of the nearly $2 billion to construct this plant will go toward addressing any of the plant’s global warming pollution.
A Step in the Wrong Direction
The Wise County facility is one of several proposed old-style coal plants in the Southeast that SELC is fighting. Combined, the four plants (others are in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) would emit at least 30 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, roughly the equivalent of pollution from 2 million cars.
Dominion’s plan for a conventional coal-fired power plant will only drag us further away from clean energy, putting it at odds with the goals of the rest of the state. Virginia’s Governor Kaine has called for increased conservation, a 30 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and the support of new technologies to expand Virginia’s energy sources.