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The Urgent Need for Clean Energy Options in VA

By Brandy Simpson | June 2, 2011 | No Comments

With plans for a Surry County coal power plant swiftly becoming closer to a reality, the need for alternative clean energy options is greater now than ever before.  Proposed in 2009 by the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), the coal power plant was expected to need at least fifty permits before construction could begin.  Now in 2011, the ODEC developers are reaching the final stages of permit approval from state and federal agencies.

If constructed, the Surry County power plant would be the second largest plant in Virginia and would generate 1500 megawatts of electricity.  Hundreds, and even thousands, of jobs would be created both in constructing and managing the plant.  As coal proves to be one of the cheapest energy sources, the new power plant would help to maintain energy costs at a reasonable price for Virginians.

While there are benefits in constructing the plant, the power plant proposal has experienced its fair share of resistance.  When first proposed in 2009, over 100 business leaders, environmentalists, and residents of Surry County attended the proposal open house.  The largest concerns that were voiced at the 2009 open house were those for the environment and the health ramifications for the residents of Surry County.  In a report released at a news conference on May 23, these long-standing concerns appear to be justified.

At the news conference in Norfolk, it was reported that the pollution generated by the plant would cause an estimated $200 million per year in health costs for the region’s residents.  The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the group that conducted the study, found that 26 premature deaths, 40 heart attacks, 442 asthma attacks, and over 3300 lost work days due to sickness could be attribute to pollution produced by the power plant if it were built.  Furthermore, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation calculated that close to 10,000 tons of carbon monoxide and 200 pounds of mercury would be emitted from the power plant annually.

With these kinds of enormous risks that come with coal production, Virginia must start looking towards alternative clean energy sources.  With numerous Virginia businesses and residents backing off shore wind energy, Virginia could become the largest wind energy innovator on the East Coast.  The $6 billion that would go towards building the Surry County coal power plant would be better spent on alternative clean energy source projects that do not come with the immense health and environmental risks.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of members of the NDP Steering Committee.

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