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Isle of Wight County in Va Officially Opposes Coal Plant

Isle of Wight County, located in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, adopted an official resolution of opposition to what would be the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia, if permitted. Click here for the Wise Energy Press release.

Isle of Wight County is downwind of and direct neighbors to the would be host Surry County. The hearings leading up to local zoning approval in Surry lasted for over a year during which my colleagues and I worked with the county residents who were and are overwhelmingly opposed. Together we watched the Surry Board of Supervisors ignore the mountain of evidence continually presented to them that showed that the coal plant proposed was dangerous and ill conceived.

Click here to send a letter of thanks to the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors.

The video below is of the debate among the Isle of Wight Board of supervisors before adopting the resolution of opposition to the coal plant. The story continues below the video.

Board of Supervisors Joann Hall, Al Casteen, and Stan Clark debate the merits of opposing the proposed coal plant.


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Over several months, doctors, scientists, electric utility employees, and an impressive group of well-informed citizens from Surry County and the region presented a large body of information to the Surry County Board of Supervisors painting a dark picture of the affect coal would have on the region. Unfortunately, the citizen research and expert testimony fell on deaf ears. From the get-go it seemed that the supervisors had made up their minds to approve local zoning for the plant and that nothing would sway them. A perfect example was in January of 2010 when the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the Surry County Supervisors to, “express its concern to [the Surry County Board of Supervisors] with the lack of information provided by the applicant on the pollution control techniques to be used at the facility.” It goes on, “The Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors suggests that the applicant provide funding to [Surry County] to perform this assessment in order to more fully inform their decision,” adding that the study should focus on potential effects on the regional economy, traffic, air quality, water quality and health affects.

It is normal business for a locality approached with a multibillion dollar, polluting and potentially dangerous project to ask the applicant for a third party study to answer questions when the law does not allow the government to provide enough detail or scrutiny in the permitting process. It happens all the time. After all, it is in the interest of the applicant, ODEC in this case, to pay what is relatively a trivial amount of money (next to the cost of the project) to appease the locality and to ensure they have all the proper information to decide if the project will be a good fit for their community.

In this case, however, a supervisor in Surry County answered Isle of Wight’s request by saying that a third party study would, “only mess up,” their decision making process.

It seems that the Surry County Board of Supervisors, much to the chagrin of their vocal constituency, was too interested in the millions of dollars promised in tax revenue to consider how their golden goose would lay rotten eggs across the region, and how their lack of consideration might not sit well with their downwind neighbors. After all, Hampton Roads was and still is on the verge of violating federal air quality standards for ozone, a significant lung irritant, of which coal plants are a major source. Ozone is the reason for “Code Orange” and “Code Red” air days when ozone levels are so dangerously high that they can cause increased incidences of asthma attacks and can cause lung damage in children, and even healthy adults, if they exert themselves outdoors. As Bob Burnley, the former head of the Department of Environmental Quality, has repeatedly expressed to Isle of Wight and other downwind communities, “If the plant is built, Hampton Roads may find it harder to attract new businesses, and existing businesses may find it harder to expand because of increasingly stronger controls for ozone pollution. That is a terrible burden for Surry County to put on the region during our current economic struggle.”

Isle of Wight answered back on Thursday, November 18, 2011 by adopting an official resolution of opposition to the proposed coal plant. They join the town of Surry in opposition and the cities of Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Representative Bobby Scott showing significant concern for how the project will affect them. In addition to the communities listed above, health groups such as the Norfolk- based Consortium for Child and Infant Health, the Virginia Asthma Coalition and the American Lung Association have officially opposed the proposal. Others officially opposed include the Isle of Wight Citizens Association, the Carrollton Civic League, the James City County Citizens Coalition, The Coalition to Keep Surry Clean, the Cape Henry Audubon Society, as well as the Garden Club of Virginia and a host of conservation groups.

Please click here to thank the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors.

Below: Sharon Hart and other citizens voice their opposition.


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Below: The whole debate.


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