Front Porch Blog

Opposition to new Dominion gas plant grows — and now includes Virginia state legislators

Sen. Ghazala Hashmi addresses the crowd to open the town hall event. Photo by Jessica Sims

On Feb. 25, over 100 members of the public and local residents gathered for an informative town hall about the new Dominion Energy gas plant proposed for Chesterfield County. The event was organized by Virginia Sen. Ghazala Hashmi who represents portions of the populous county in Central Virginia. In response to the many inquiries she received from her constituents on the plant’s purported need, along with its environmental and economic impacts, she invited Dominion Energy representatives and Friends of Chesterfield, a local advocacy group, to present about the project and share their perspectives on the plant.

Topics at the town hall included the plant’s proposed purpose, its relation to the Virginia Clean Economy Act — the state’s landmark clean energy legislation — and the health and environmental concerns associated with a gas plant. The representatives from Dominion Energy spoke first and described the range of ways they source energy for customers. They downplayed the opportunities to source battery storage from solar and wind energy, instead sharing the revelation that the sun doesn’t shine at night! Their revelation, part of their reasoning to use fracked gas, only seemed to reinforce the need for expanding battery storage and responsible sourcing of energy.

Battery storage enables electricity from renewable energy to be stored and released when power is needed most. Dominion currently has operational battery storage facilities in Powhatan, New Kent and Hanover counties. Additional large-scale battery storage facilities are under development in Sussex County, Loudoun County and —wait for it — Chesterfield County.

Board members of the local community group Friends of Chesterfield spoke about the environmental and health impacts of existing fossil fuel infrastructure, and the burden it places on nearby communities. Specifically, the emissions from should this plant be built could contribute to respiratory issues and it would release potent greenhouse gases.They also highlighted that costs for this new, $500 million-plus facility would be passed along to Dominion customers.

A display at the Town Hall from Friends of Chesterfield. Photo by Jessica Sims


What I learned from the town hall was that Dominion, a company with significant resources and ability to expand clean energy in Virginia, has branded a new polluting gas plant as its only option for “reliability.” The Dominion presentation glossed over the serious history of pollution from its existing Chesterfield power plant and neglected to mention available options to source clean energy power generation from the PJM Interconnection energy market. PJM operates the power system for 13 states by coordinating the movement of wholesale electricity for more than 65 million people.

It would seem, the best idea the company can come up with is to make captive ratepayers finance a new, giant, pollution-spewing plant and have communities in Chesterfield — who’ve already endured decades of coal pollution — bear additional health burdens.

Dominion can do better.

In fact, the Virginia Clean Economy Act requires Dominion to do better — as the state’s electric grid must retire fossil fuel generation sources (like gas plants) and transition to renewable energy sources (like solar) by 2045.

Sen. Hashmi closed the event by thanking the panelists, and indicating she looked forward to receiving more information and data on the proposed plant before forming her opinion.

Friends of Chesterfield Board member Jason Woodby presents about the plant’s potential pollution Photo by Jessica Sims


A few weeks later, her opinion was publicly communicated. On March 13, Sen. Hashmi publicly released a letter of opposition to the plant, and was joined in opposition by eight other legislators representing the Central Virginia area. Among the reasons listed for her opposition concerned the implementation of the Viginia Clean Economy Act.

“We set a timeline for ourselves in Virginia,” she wrote. “And so, if we’re going to meet that timeline, we have to take those steps each year and begin that process of lowering carbon emissions.”

The legislators’ opposition adds to the growing community efforts to oppose the new Chesterfield plant, the misnamed ‘Chesterfield Energy Reliability Center.’

Latest updates on the project:

Dominion Energy has submitted a Conditional Use Permit to Chesterfield County, but the application is not yet complete. Once complete, the county planning commission and board of supervisors will review it and solicit public comment. The board of supervisors would then vote to approve or deny the permit. Recent communications to the county planning department reveal they may pursue building at the location of their decommissioned coal plant, to circumvent the county-level permit review process.

If approved at the county level, the gas plant would require additional approvals at the state level. The plant would require an air permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and permission from the State Corporation Commission. The SCC determines the legitimacy of Dominion Energy’s Integrated Resource Plans, which identify a utility company’s long-term energy resource strategy. The company must then prove the need for the project to receive a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which is a permit that authorizes a utility to build a new major asset like a power plant.

How can you get involved?

Visit friendsofchesterfield.org for updates.
If you are a Chesterfield resident, you can sign this petition from Friends of Chesterfield, contact your county supervisor to share concerns about the plant or speak at the April 24 board of supervisors meeting.

Born and raised in Central Virginia, Jessica holds a lifelong passion for protecting Virginia’s waterways. She works as AV's Virginia Field Coordinator fighting against fracked-gas pipelines.


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One COMMENT
  1. Margaret Sims says:

    Keep this new gas plant out of Chesterfield County. Use renewable energy resources instead.

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