Virginia Governor, legislators, environmental groups join forces to stand up to Dominion on coal ash

A new law just passed in Virginia will require better evaluation of coal ash pits holding tons of toxin-laden ash, like those at Dominion’s Chesapeake Energy Center, before closing them. (© Mike Mather/SELC)

The Virginia Senate and House have approved Governor Terry McAuliffe’s amendments to a coal ash bill that requires Dominion Energy to complete assessments of coal ash sites before it can receive any closure permits. This comes after months of Dominion fighting to move permitting forward without first analyzing the leaking, coal ash pits and the harm “cap-in-place” closure would cause.

“After the Governor put his foot down, Dominion realized it had lost this battle and agreed to do the right thing,” said SELC attorney Nate Benforado. “The passage of this bill represents tremendous progress for Virginia. We look forward to reviewing Dominion’s assessments during the pause in this permitting process.”

Governor McAuliffe and the Virginia state legislature worked alongside environmental groups and concerned citizens to make sure this legislation passed in an effective form. The state legislature first tried to remove the provision that paused permitting, a move that Governor McAuliffe was quick to amend and send back to the legislature for the approval it finally received.

Among others things, Dominion must now look at alternative closure methods including excavating and removing the coal ash to dry lined storage or recycling the coal ash. Under the new law, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality cannot issue any closure permits for coal ash ponds until May 1, 2018.

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