Press Release | September 2, 2011

Virginia Environmental Organizations Applaud Dominion Decision to Phase Out Two Coal Plants

Yorktown and Chesapeake Generating Stations to be Retired

Dominion Resources Inc., the Commonwealth of Virginia’s largest utility, announced yesterday that it will phase out two of its oldest and dirtiest coal fired power plants. The Chesapeake and Yorktown plants, situated in coastal Virginia, will end coal operations by 2016 and 2015 respectively. This announcement comes just days after GenOn announced that it had decided to phase out the Potomac Generating Station, an aging coal fired power plant in northern Virginia.

Environmental organizations roundly applauded Dominion’s move, but simultaneously called for the utility, which has just released its multi-year Integrated Resources Plan, to invest in renewable energy.

“We’re extremely pleased with Dominion’s announcement that they will be retiring the fifty-year-old Chesapeake and Yorktown plants,” said Glen Besa, Director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter. ” By phasing out these two plants Dominion has ensured that electricity rates wont rise due to costly investments in outdated energy sources. We are, however, disappointed that Dominion has not made a firm commitment to developing wind and solar power in Virginia. It is important that we use the retirement timeline of these plants to retrain their workforce and create new clean energy jobs-something which we could accomplish with offshore wind off the coast of Virginia Beach. Dominion’s onshore wind projects in our neighboring states, like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Indiana, are creating both clean energy and good jobs. We want Dominion to recognize that it’s Virginia’s turn.”

“Dinosaurs like the Chesapeake and Yorktown Plants, which date back to the Eisenhower era, need to make way for cleaner alternatives like energy efficiency, so we are pleased that Dominion recognizes energy efficiency as a resource that can help meet Virginia’s future energy needs,” said Cale Jaffe, Senior Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “North Carolina, however, is growing energy efficiency programs at a far greater rate than Virginia.  If Dominion fails to take advantage of all cost-effective opportunities, we risk losing efficiency jobs to neighboring states.”

“The price of coal in our region is skyrocketing – and that’s not counting the enormous cost imposed on society when it’s mined, processed, and burned. Pouring billions in ratepayer dollars into these coal plants would effectively lock Virginia into greater dependence on this destructive and increasingly expensive fuel for decades to come. We’re pleased that Dominion isn’t planning to go down that path, but we need a major commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy that we haven’t seen yet,” said Tom Cormons, Virginia Director for Appalachian Voices.

“While the coal plant closures are welcome news, Dominion’s proposal to invest in natural gas power plants demonstrates that they are completely out of touch with the need to halt climate change,” said Beth Kemler, Virginia State Director for Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Just this week, hundreds of thousands of its customers spent multiple days without power because of a hurricane that was likely intensified by global warming.  And now the company releases a plan that would increase its emissions of greenhouse gases by building more massive natural gas plants and converting plants to biomass, instead of taking advantage of our huge offshore wind resource.  The wind off our coast could power hundreds of thousands of homes without releasing any emissions but Dominion’s plan includes no concrete steps toward taking advantage of it.”

Chesapeake and Yorktown are two of the worst polluters in the region, with Chesapeake alone pumping out more than 3 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. The two plants are also responsible for tens of thousands of tons of soot and smog pollution each year. This pollution generates a deadly haze which can trigger asthma attacks, respiratory illnesses, and can contribute to heart disease, cancers and other ailments. Nationally, pollution from coal-fired power plants is responsible for billions of dollars in health costs and lost work and school days annually.

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