Groups Ask State Corporation Commission to Ensure Utilities Invest in Clean Air, Clean Energy, and Green Jobs for Virginia
For Immediate Release
August 30th, 2011
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Southern Environmental Law Center: Frank Rambo: 434-977-4090
Sierra Club: Glen Besa: 804-225-9113, x104
Chesapeake Climate Action Network: Beth Kemler, 804-335-0915
Appalachian Voices: Tom Cormons: 434-293-6373
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Richmond, VA – With the commonwealth’s largest utilities submitting their long term plans for meeting Virginia’s electricity needs to Virginia’s regulators later this week, a group of public health and environmental organizations called for a vision for a clean energy future. Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, and Southern Environmental Law Center are calling on the State Corporation Commission to ensure that “Integrated Resource Plans” from Dominion and AEP address the needs and concerns of Virginia’s ratepayers, workers, and citizens by increasing investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy, rather than spending billions of ratepayer dollars to extend the lives of some of the companies’ oldest and dirtiest energy sources or investing in risky new coal-fired power plants.
Advocates hope to see specific elements in Dominion and AEP’s forthcoming Integrated Resource Plans. They expect that the State Corporation Commission will ensure that the plans include:
· No plans for new coal-fired power plants.
· No further investment in the Commonwealth’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants, such as Chesapeake, Yorktown, Glen Lyn, and Clinch River. Even with expensive, ratepayer-funded retrofits, these plants would continue to emit millions of tons of carbon pollution annually, together with dangerous pollutants like mercury and soot- and smog-forming chemicals that contribute to respiratory disease and premature death.
· Investment in the generation of wind power off the coast of Virginia, which could provide over 10,000 gWh of clean, renewable energy per year within the next decade without releasing any pollution. The industry could also provide 10,000 jobs and $1.9 billion a year in state GDP.
· Increased achievement of energy efficiency in Virginia, which has a potential for reducing energy needs by 39,000 gWh and shaving 11,000 MW (or more than 20 average size coal plants) off of peak demand by 2025 while saving a cumulative $15 billion for ratepayers and creating 10,000 jobs, according to a 2008 study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
“Virginia ratepayers shouldn’t be forced to invest more money in old coal-fired power plants like Chesapeake, Yorktown, Glen Lyn, and Clinch River so they can continue poisoning our air and water and costing Virginians hundreds of millions of dollars in premature deaths and increased health costs,” said Glen Besa, Director of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It is past time to end the harmful pollution from these coal plants and invest instead in a new clean energy future and jobs for our workers with energy efficiency, wind, and solar power.”
Air pollution in Virginia from coal-fired power plants contributes to 647 premature deaths and 896 heart attacks annually, according to research by the Clean Air Task Force: https://www.catf.us/coal/problems/power_plants/existing/map.php?state=Virginia. Across the four-state central Appalachian region, over 2,000 miles of streams and 500 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal in order to produce coal for power plants in Virginia and nationwide, causing elevated rates of cancer, heart disease, and birth defects in surrounding communities. Rather than continuing to spend money retrofitting old, dirty coal-fired power plants in order to comply with modern environmental regulations, the groups called on utilities to invest in renewable energy, such as offshore wind power.
“The price of coal in our region is skyrocketing – and that’s not counting the enormous cost imposed on society when it’s mined, processed, and burned. We simply cannot afford to pour billions in ratepayer dollars into these coal plants and effectively lock Virginia into greater dependence on this destructive and increasingly expensive fuel for decades to come,” said Tom Cormons, Virginia Director for Appalachian Voices.
Dominion has been participating in discussions of offshore wind power and has an executive, Mary Doswell, on the board of the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority. However Dominion has yet to commit to investing in this energy source in its official plans. Advocates worry that without a utility leading the way, Virginia will not only lose out on the thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in GDP associated with developing the commonwealth’s offshore wind industry but will likely also lose the race for the associated supply chain businesses to other states.
“Hurricane Irene shined a spotlight on the need for our utilities to transition to clean, renewable energy, instead of stubbornly sticking with fossil fuels,” said Beth Kemler, Virginia State Director for Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “While coal, oil and biomass power plants release greenhouse gases that contribute to more extreme weather events and rising sea levels through climate change, offshore wind turbines are a clean source of energy. In addition, the offshore wind power industry could provide thousands of much-needed jobs to Virginians. Environmentalists and policy-makers can talk about these benefits all we want but it’s really the utilities who have the power to flip the switch on this new industry.”
“Energy efficiency is a win-win-win for Virginia. Utilities can control their costs by weaning themselves from fossil fuels whose prices fluctuate dramatically. Workers across the state can benefit from implementing a suite of locally based energy-efficiency programs. Citizens will save money by using less energy. And everyone will breathe easier,” said Frank Rambo, head of the Clean Energy and Air Program at the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Dominion and AEP customers are also encouraged to contact the State Corporation Commission after the plans are filed – https://www.scc.virginia.gov/case/PublicComments.aspx.