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Public Citizen Testifies Against Proposed Publicly Funded Coal Plant

Oct. 17, 2006

Public Citizen Testifies Against Proposed Publicly Funded Coal Plant

St. Paul Plant Would Increase Rates, Pollute Virginia’s Air, Continue Destructive Mining

RICHMOND, Va. – The Virginia State Corporation Commission should reject Dominion Virginia Power’s request to build a conventional coal plant near St. Paul, Va., Public Citizen told commissioners today.

The petition, according to Melissa Kemp, an organizer for Public Citizen’s Energy Program, is inconsistent with existing Virginia law and asks the commission to make serious financial decisions that will affect the public without having critical information about the proposed project. If approved, the petition would burden the public by guaranteeing Dominion recovery of plant construction costs, a high rate of return on the money used for construction, an even greater rate of profit on the plant’s operation and exemptions from bidding rules, which are used to keep costs down and protect ratepayers.

More importantly, Kemp argued, an increase in electricity rates should be granted only to fund new power generation that is in the interest of Virginia’s people and communities. In this case, the costs of coal far outweigh its benefits.

Increased air pollution and the urgency of climate change are key concerns, Kemp told the commission.     Coal plants discharge large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the proposed plant’s emissions would be higher than pre-existing, similarly sized plants. Furthermore, the new coal plant’s proposal contains no provisions for sequestering the carbon dioxide.

“While the plant design – called ‘fluidized bed combustion’ – reduces sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, it actually generates an increased amount of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas that has 296 times the effect of carbon dioxide,” Kemp said. “It also produces toxic ash, requires more destructive mining and runs counter to the safe, clean and sustainable energy future Virginia claims it wants to pursue.”

The economic benefits promised to southwest Virginia by the plant are questionable, Kemp said. “Economic prosperity could be better brought about through other means,” she said. “To pollute a community in order to benefit it makes no sense.”