Press Release | July 25, 2008

Legal challenges filed against Wise County power plant

The Southern Environmental Law Center today submitted three separate court filings challenging the state's actions in granting Dominion Power permission to build a $1.8 billion coal-fired power plant in Wise County, Virginia. The lawsuits culminate more than a year of administrative procedures, during which tens of thousands of Virginians opposed the project due to air pollution, health impacts, and concerns over mountaintop removal mining and global warming.

“We are bringing these challenges now because this coal plant, as permitted, would fail to meet core Clean Air Act requirements,” said SELC Senior Attorney Cale Jaffe, who filed the court papers on behalf of the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club. “At nearly two billion dollars and without any means to capture its carbon dioxide pollution, this plant represents a remarkably bad deal for Virginia.”

Two of the filings are in the Virginia Circuit Court for the City of Richmond, and name the State Air Pollution Control Board as the defendant. These filings include an appeal of the “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” (PSD) air pollution permit and an appeal of the “Maximum Achievable Control Technology” (MACT) permit. Both permits were issued to Dominion on June 30, 2008.

In the PSD appeal, the coalition of citizen organizations will raise, among other claims, that emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants must be controlled. In the MACT appeal, the coalition will argue that the permit fails to adequately control emissions of hazardous air toxics, such as mercury, which can cause severe neurological deficits in infants, fetuses, and young children.

The third filing is in the Supreme Court of Virginia, and is an appeal from an order of the State Corporation Commission. On March 30, 2008, the Commission approved the plant, relying on a Virginia statute that requires Dominion to “utilize Virginia coal.” The statute violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states from unduly interfering with foreign or interstate commerce.

Additional filings will be due in court, on all three challenges, over the coming weeks and months.