Victory! Plans for Coal Plant Near National Parks in Virginia Suspended
By Pamela Goddard, Chesapeake and Virginia Program Manager
We did it! NPCA supporters and thousands of others convinced Old Dominion Electric Company (ODEC) to suspend their plans to build a 1,500-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Surry County, Virginia! NPCA has been fighting this plant for several years. As designed, the Cypress Creek power plant would have been three times larger than the average coal-fired power plant currently in operation. Its pollution would have increased asthma and heart-related illness in Virginia while contributing to hazy skies over our national parks and mercury in park headwaters. Throughout the process, ODEC could not show that demand even existed in Virginia for a coal plant of this magnitude.
More than 9,000 comments were submitted against the plant and many town and city councils passed resolutions against it. In August 2012, ODEC asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cease the permitting process necessary for the proposed Cypress Creek plant to proceed. NPCA is heartened by this news but will remain vigilant, as ODEC still owns the land and could decide to revive this plant in the future. Thank you for working alongside us to protect clean air, pristine water, and all the treasures of our national parks for our children and grandchildren.
Why is protecting air quality in Virginia’s national parks important?
The pollution from this plant would have threatened protected historic sites such as Petersburg and Richmond National Battlefields, and contributed to unhealthy air many days of the year at Colonial National Historical Park, each established to honor and remember our nation’s heritage. Air pollution harms local streams and the Chesapeake Bay. The pollutants have significant impacts locally, and also can travel on the wind for many miles, thereby affecting a large ecological area. Power plant pollution contributes to smoggy haze that reduces scenic views, and the enjoyment of hikers or anyone active outdoors, as well as threatening human health, plants, and animals. Virginia’s tourism and agricultural economies depend on clean air.
What was the threat?
According to ODEC’s own air pollution control permit application, by stopping this plant in its tracks, we’ve stopped these estimated emissions from entering the atmosphere each year:
- 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxides
- 2,100+ tons of particulate matter
- 3,600+ tons of sulfur dioxide
- 44 pounds of mercury
- 1,000 pounds of lead
- 12 million tons of carbon dioxide
You can learn more about NPCA’s Clean Air work on our website, and more about the ODEC plant in this recent story by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation: “A Coal Plant’s Drain on Health and Wealth.” Be sure to sign up for NPCA’s email list for more opportunities to take action on issues affecting national parks.