Environmental group files lawsuits against Wise County coal plant

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Media General News Service

The battle over a planned $1.8 billion, coal-burning power plant in Southwest Virginia has moved from the meeting room to the courthouse.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, an environmental group, is challenging the state’s approval of the Dominion Virginia Power plant with lawsuits in two courts.

Two filings in Richmond Circuit Court challenge the state Air Pollution Control Board’s 5-0 votes last month to issue two permits for the plant.
The opponents claim, among other things, that the board acted illegally by not limiting the plant’s emissions of carbon dioxide, which is linked to global warming. “This plant is not state-of-the-art,” said Cale Jaffe, an attorney for the law center.

The third filing, in the Virginia Supreme Court, challenges the State Corporation Commission’s approval of the plant in March. That challenge claims the SCC relied on a flawed state law that requires the plant to burn coal mined in Virginia. That law is unconstitutional, the environmentalists say, because it limits interstate commerce.

Dominion has persistently said the plant would have modern pollution controls, and it would provide jobs and revenue for Wise County. Dominion spokesman Dan Genest said, “This is the most thoroughly considered and strictest air permit in the history of the commonwealth, and we are confident it will be upheld.”
The law center filed the challenges on behalf of four other environmental groups — the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club. The power-plant battle has gone on for about two years. Dominion’s proposal included annual emissions of about 3,300 tons of sulfur dioxide and 49.5 pounds of mercury. The air board cut the limit on sulfur dioxide to 603 tons per year and set a maximum limit for mercury emissions of 4.45 pounds per year. For more information on the plant, go to our cover story.

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