Press Release | September 14, 2017

Dominion Puts Atlantic Sturgeon at Risk in the James River

SELC files comments asking National Marine Fisheries Service to refuse permit

Charlottesville, VA— Dominion is asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to allow it to kill thousands of endangered Atlantic sturgeon in order to continue operating its harmful and polluting Chesterfield Power Station without violating the Endangered Species Act.  Today the Southern Environmental Law Center submitted comments to the National Marine Fisheries Services imploring it to reject this permit request that would allow the Power Station to operate for a period of 10 years without taking any necessary precautions to minimize the deaths of this endangered and crucial fish in the James River.

“If not for the Chesterfield Plant, hundreds more juvenile Sturgeon would likely be swimming in the James River today—a critical step in the species’ long and tenuous road to recovery,” said SELC attorney Nate Benforado. “Dominion is attempting to shirk its responsibility to this recovery effort by requesting this permit.”

The Chesterfield Plant is likely having a significant effect on the survival and recovery of Atlantic sturgeon in the James River.  Its antiquated cooling water system sucks up more than a billion gallons of water a day, and during critical spawning periods, that intake water can contain as many as tens of thousands of infant Atlantic sturgeon.  Once sucked in, these sturgeon are killed and their bodies simply dissolve and break apart, evading detection during typical operations.  The 130 ºF water spilling out of the plant and polluting the river is also likely to kill and harm juveniles and adult sturgeon.

Although utilities like Dominion are required by law to develop a habitat conservation plan and to mitigate such impacts, by improperly disregarding Chesterfield’s serious impacts, Dominion has not proposed any modifications to its operations that could help save sturgeon, nor has it proposed any measures that would preserve or restore actual habitat.  Instead, Dominion seeks a 10 year blank check to kill these important fish without any meaningful changes.

SELC’s filing today urges The National Marine Fisheries Service to refuse this permit until Dominion proposes some real ways to minimize the harm to Atlantic sturgeon.


About The Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Nate Benforado

Senior Attorney