News | September 4, 2009

Air Board Approves Binding Mercury Limit for Virginia Power Plant

As a result of SELC's recent court victory, highly stringent mercury emission standards are now in place for Dominion Power's coal-fired power plant being built in Wise County, Virginia. SELC argued in the Richmond Circuit Court that the plant's air pollution control permit contained an illegal “escape hatch” clause that allowed for the mercury limit to be raised if the plant could not meet the standard. The court ruled in our favor and sent the permit back to the state Air Pollution Control Board.

A mutually agreed upon amendment striking the “escape hatch” was approved by the air board at its meeting on September 3. The new permit ensures that the power plant's strict mercury limit will be binding.

Read the judge's orders on the Wise County, Virginia power plant here.

The Dangers of Mercury Contamination

Mercury enters the human food chain by accumulating in fish. When pregnant women and nursing mothers eat fish contaminated with mercury, their fetuses and infants are put at risk for a range of neurological impairments—from cognitive delays to mental retardation. A study just released by the U.S. Geological Survey found mercury contamination in every fish it sampled from streams across the country, with some of the highest levels found in fish from “blackwater” streams in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.