Wise plant approved, but emission levels reduced

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Jessica Sabbath

The state Air Pollution Control Board unanimously approved air permits for Dominion Virginia Power’s 585-megawatt coal-fired plant in Wise County Wednesday evening, but cut its permissible sulfur dioxide emissions by 82 percent.

Dominion has proposed that its plant release 3,300 tons of sulfur dioxide emissions and 49.5 pounds of mercury per year. The board’s decision sets much stricter limits. Its appoval limits sulfur dioxide emissions to 603 tons per year and mercury emissions to 4.65 pounds per year.

The board’s decision also requires Dominion to fuel the plant with 5 percent biomass after three years of operation. It would be required to increase by a percentage point each year until 10 percent of the plant is fueled by biomass products. The board’s decision also requires Dominion to switch its Bremo Bluff Power Station from coal to natural gas.

Dominion’s statement on the vote, released Wednesday evening, was cautious: “We have not yet had the opportunity to review the final permits, but this decision paves the way for us to start construction in the very near future.” The company had not updated its statement on Thursday morning.

Dominion has said the Wise plant is necessary to meet the state’s growing energy demands.

Supporters of the plant said it would bring jobs and investment to the area, while opponents argued it would be one of the biggest polluters in the state.
The July issue of Virginia Business includes a cover package on the state’s future energy needs and how Dominion and other companies plan to meet them.

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