In a momentous victory for clean energy advocates in Virginia, a Circuit Court in Richmond ruled that the State Air Pollution Control Board violated federal environmental law in issuing a permit for Dominion Power’s coal-fired power plant in the southwest corner of the state. Judge Margaret Spencer agreed with a coalition of environmental groups that the “escape hatch” in Dominion’s Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) permit rendered that permit unlawful.
The Clean Air Act’s MACT program regulates emissions of hazardous air toxins, such as mercury, which can cause severe neurological deficits in infants, fetuses, and young children. Judge Spencer ruled that the “mercury emission limit . . . must be set ‘irrespective of cost or achievability,’” and that the “escape hatch” was “violative of the laws addressing pre-construction mandates.”
When Congress passed the Clean Air Act, it required companies to obtain such permits before construction began on a power plant. The goal was to ensure that the plant was designed and built in a way to protect the public health and welfare. Dominion, which started construction a week after the Virginia air board approved the permits in June 2008, has said the plant is about 20% complete. The judge’s ruling invalidated the MACT permit.
The Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition has raised a host of concerns regarding Dominion over the past several years including air pollution and the health of the local community, water quality, mountaintop removal coal mining, and the impacts of the plant’s carbon emissions on global warming. Over 42,000 Virginians signed petitions and sent letters to state and company officials opposing the project.
Source: Southern Environment
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