The Old Dominion Electric Co-op (ODEC) announced yesterday that it has suspended plans to build the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia! While the ODEC plant was slated for construction in eastern Virginia’s Surry County, ODEC planned to fuel it with central Appalachian coal. It would have been a major contributor to mountaintop removal mining, air and water contamination, and climate change. When ODEC proposed the plant in December, 2008, it expected a quick and smooth path to securing the required zoning approvals and environmental permits, but our opposition stalled its progress. Now, in the face of overwhelming regional opposition combined with changing market conditions, ODEC has opted to cease work on the proposal.
For more than three years, Appalachian Voices’ Virginia program has led the grassroots fight against the plant in Hampton Roads, the coastal region of Virginia that already suffers from poor air quality and would receive the brunt of pollution if the plant were built. We worked closely with partner groups and extremely dedicated local residents combining tireless on-the-ground organizing with hard hitting advocacy before local governments. As a result, five localities (including Norfolk and Virginia Beach) have passed resolutions of concern or in opposition to the plant, more than 8,000 people have signed petitions opposing it, and hundreds of local residents have attended hearings to express their opposition in person.
We must continue to be vigilant and monitor ODEC. The process has only been, “suspended” and not halted. In a few years ODEC could decide to renew their efforts, though we hope the utility follows in the path of many across the county and abandons coal altogether. In the meantime the residents of Surry County, and Hampton Roads, who have spent the last three and a half years of their lives fighting this coal plant can breathe easy.