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Critics: Dominion Plans Rely Too Much on Fossil Fuels

Critics say Dominion Virginia plans to rely too heavily on fossil fuel plants, like the Bremo Power Station, to generate power in the next two decades. (Nick Kotula)
Critics say Dominion Virginia plans to rely too heavily on fossil fuel plants, like the Bremo Power Station, to generate power in the next two decades. (Nick Kotula)
October 7, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. – Dominion Virginia Power wants to rely too heavily on fuels that change the climate, according to critics of the state's largest utility. Dominion has filed its Integrated Resource Plan with the State Corporation Commission. Depending on which version is approved, the company would raise greenhouse-gas emissions between 14 and 83 percent over the next 25 years. That's in spite of state, federal and international policies all calling for sharp emission cuts.

Glen Besa, former director of the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter, thinks Dominion would invest too much in expensive new pipelines and gas-fired power plants, with consequences for customers as well as the environment.

"To the extent that they are shut down, it will represent stranded costs, and those costs will ultimately get put on the ratepayer," he said. "So, customers of Dominion are going to be forced to pay to bail Dominion out for this bad investment."

Dominion argues that natural gas is cheap, new gas plants are extremely efficient, and new capacity is needed to meet expected increases in demand.

As the coast warily watches Hurricane Matthew, climatologists say Virginia is increasingly vulnerable to sea-level rise and other environmental changes as well.

Steve Nash, author of the book Virginia Climate Fever, said Richmond is already on track to see much higher temperatures by mid-century.

"Three times as many days over 90 degrees each year," he said. "That's about three months a year of 90-plus days. In fact, Virginia is on track to have the same climate as South Carolina."

The critics also charge that Dominion Virginia's corporate parent makes much of its money from gas drilling, transportation, and sales.

Alden Cleanthes, the Hampton Roads organizer for the group Mom's Clean Air Force, said if the utility spends billions on infrastructure to use natural gas, it will be that much harder to seek cleaner alternatives.

"We cannot move forward accepting a plan from our power company to continue contaminating our community," she stated. "It has continued because it is profitable, not because it is desirable or necessary."

Regulators are expected to rule on the plan late this year or early next year.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA