In response to extensive comments from citizens and conservation groups, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has imposed precedent-setting protections against greenhouse gases and other air pollutants from Dominion Power’s proposed gas power plant in Greensville County.
Appalachian Mountain Advocates prepared the comments on behalf of Appalachian Voices and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. The groups are pleased with DEQ’s action, and they say the agency must apply the same scrutiny to the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
The DEQ outlined these stronger protections in the revised draft air permit for the Greensville Power Station, a proposed 1,558-megawatt power plant. If built, the gas plant would be the largest in the state. It would burn fracked natural gas supplied directly by another Dominion project — the Atlantic Coast Pipeline — a nearly 600-mile long large-diameter pipeline that would take private property and destroy forests and streams in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
Based on Appalachian Mountain Advocates’ analysis of the draft permit, DEQ will force Dominion to employ the “best available control technology” at the plant as required by the Clean Air Act. DEQ dramatically tightened carbon dioxide limits, cutting allowable emissions by more than 10% from Dominion’s original proposal.
If the permit is ultimately approved by the State Air Pollution Control Board, Dominion would have to meet more protective standards on carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, methane, and particulate matter as well. The final permit would also force Dominion to conduct additional performance testing to prevent formaldehyde pollution, and enforce more powerful controls for methane leakage. These pollution controls will heavily reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the plant and that reduction in dangerous emissions will improve air quality throughout the region.
“The impacts of this decision could ripple through the energy sector,” said Evan Johns, staff attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates. “By strengthening efficiency requirements, this permit will serve as the new benchmark against which all similar Clean Air Act permits must be measured in the future.”
The groups will continue to push DEQ for similarly strong protections against the massive quantities of methane that could leak from the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. “DEQ’s revisions to the permit demonstrate how important the Clean Air Act is in curbing greenhouse gas emissions,” Johns said. “That’s why we’re urging regulators to follow the Act’s clear requirement that the pipeline and the power plant be treated as a single, integrated source of air pollution.”
As a greenhouse gas, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Unless Dominion is required to reduce these leaks, the proposed plant and related facilities may produce as much greenhouse gas pollution as a coal-fired power plant.
“When the State Corporation Commission approved this plant, an extension of existing dirty gas lines was approved. Dominion doesn’t need the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to service this plant,” said Kate Addleson, Director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Instead of expanding our dependence on gas, a focus on renewable energy like solar would ensure costs remain low and citizen’s health is protected.”
They will also appeal DEQ’s failure to require Dominion incorporate solar at the facility. “Solar farms don’t have smokestacks and they don’t leak methane, so incorporating solar is absolutely the best technology for controlling emissions,” said Hannah Wiegard, Virginia Campaign Coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “Plus, Dominion itself says solar energy is more affordable for ratepayers.”