You Want Studies? We’ve Got Studies!

The latest news in the Bacon’s Rebellion in-box…

Coal ash. Resource International, an engineering and consulting firm hired by Prince William County, has concluded that lead found in well water near the Possum Creek Power Station  has no connection to the coal ash ponds nearby. Concludes the study:

The test results for the sample collected from the wells … appear typical of shallow wells in the Virginia Coastal Plain and Piedmont regions. Natural hydrogeologic processes do not allow for movement of shallow groundwater from the Possum Point Power Station toward the residences on Possum Point Road.  … Based on the foregoing, it is reasonable to conclude that the Dominion Ash Ponds do not represent a potential source in connection with lead or other constituents identified in the private well samples.

Mountain Valley Pipeline. Meanwhile, a new study by Key-Log Economics, commissioned by foes of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, estimates that the total net-present-value cost to an eight-county region in Virginia and West Virginia would amount to between $8 billion and $9 billion. Annual costs in lost property value and lost ecosystem service value would range between $119 million and $131 million yearly.

The same group had estimated in an earlier study that the annual cost of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would run around $141 million annually.

— JAB

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6 responses to “You Want Studies? We’ve Got Studies!

  1. ” Resource finds no record of well depth/construction at the residences. For
    purposes of this evaluation, it is assumed that the wells withdraw from the
    unconfined or “water table” aquifer and not from a lower, confined, aquifer
    or bedrock. ”

    I don’t know much but this seems like a powerful assumption.

    I’m also a little surprised that mercury is not an issue since we KNOW that mercury is in the coal – and present in the residue and emissions.

    I would think – give the many different characteristics of water that can be measured that it would be possible to produce a profile of the groundwater at the site of the coal ash ponds and in that general area – and then samples taken from near the ash ponds and compared with the water at the bottom of the residents wells and see if it is all from the same aquifer or not – has the same mineral and other characteristics or not and contamination or not.

    This is a fairly common practice at modern landfills where permanent monitoring wells are drilled at the boundaries of the landfill then further out and then samples taken at periodic intervals at all the monitoring sites – and compared to verify the water remains consistent between the wells and that none of the individual wells water have been altered and are different from the other wells.

    If you’re not going to remove the coal ash – it seems that to be responsible, you’d have to continue to monitor those wells -the same way they do now – routinely with landfills – both active and capped.

    To not do this – in my view – is to run similar risks they ran up at Flint where they purposely avoided a more rigorous and through testing regime…because it was “expensive” and got away with it until someone else – Va Tech came on the scene and found really awful results.

    We ought not be following that kind of policy in Virginia.

    Why not let the very same Va Tech folks do their thing – and people will be more inclined to trust the results?

    I don’t think anyone is looking for pristine – it’s a question of insuring that the level of contamination is a measured and quantifiable baseline from which future testing can be compared back to – to assure that the site remains inactive and not something that blows up into a disaster later.

    Of course – a lot of this could be resolved straight away if Dominion agreed to remove the coal ash and cap the site and be done with it. You’d still need some level of monitoring but it would be just pro forma routine.

    Seems like anything short of that is a playing a little bit of the ticking-time-bomb game, no?

  2. Headline: ” Regulators: Coal ash to be moved from North Carolina pits”

    [excerpts]
    All coal-ash pits in North Carolina maintained by Duke Energy power plants pose enough of an environmental risk that they should be excavated and moved by 2024, state environmental regulators said Wednesday.

    Duke Energy in 2014 floated a potential cost to excavate coal ash from all 14 of its coal-burning power plants at $10 billion. The company has said it expected to ask state utilities regulators to allow it to pass along its coal-ash bill to electricity customers.

    http://goo.gl/pV8ovI

    interesting how this issue is playing out in NC verses Va.

  3. Here is part of my submission to FERC re the first Pipeline Study.

    The report charges that the 2 pipelines are both redundant, and that charge is backed specific numbers. For instance … Dominion has received approval for 2 new gas fired electricity plants and yet “Dominion has told the Virginia State Corporation Commission that it can supply those plants through the existing Transco pipeline.” The only conclusion to Dominion’s testimony is … “the ratepayers of the utilities that have contracted to ship gas through the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would be burdened with the costs of building” the additional pipeline, even though adequate gas can be delivered through existing pipelines. Building additional take-away capacity is both costly and unnecessary.

    The idea that more future pipeline capacity is needed is not backed up by facts from a variety of sources. The IEEEA report details excess capacity throughout the area. According to Environmental Information Agency data, average capacity utilization in 2014 for pipelines flowing out of West Virginia was 33%. Utilization of pipelines flowing into Virginia was 23% and, into North Carolina, 37%.

    Another analysis shows that … pipeline capacity out of Appalachia is expected to exceed gas production starting in 2017 and will exceed production through 2030. Range Resources, one of the largest Appalachian shale drillers, expects that “the Appalachian Basin’s takeaway capacity will be largely overbuilt by the 2016-2017 time-frame with production peaking around 2028,” certainly well before the pipeline’s useful life of forty years.

    The IEEFA has concluded the current permitting methods used by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission facilitate overbuilding. First, a high rate of return on equity, often not achievable elsewhere in the current investment marketplace, is granted by FERC to pipeline companies. Rates of up to 14% are high enough to attract capital investment without much scrutiny of continued long-term demand. Second, when a regulated utility’s parent company is building the pipeline, that parent company has the incentive to capture the high return by owning the pipeline regardless of the availability of other carrying capacity.

    The same incentive conflict is apparent when valid alternatives to the use of gas to generate electricity should be considered. The conflict is especially evident when alternative resources will dramatically reduce future central grid demand. The ability of a utility’s parent company to build vertical ownership of gas supply, transport, and use is a financial incentive held in place by old monopoly regulation. Virginia Electric Power has just completed a new natural gas facility, has another in the planning process and has listed several other new gas plants in their plans for the future. This reliance on natural gas for electricity will increase, not decrease, the amount of green house gases the utility will be emitting 10 years from now in direct contradiction to federal policy. It will also preserve the growth of central grid demand.

    Several studies, including one from the Union of Concerned Scientists, caution against an overreliance on natural gas for electricity. Additional natural gas plants are not the best choice for Virginia and North Carolina’s electricity future. Virginia, according to studies from NREL and from Stanford University, has exceptional resources of solar, both rural and rooftop, as well as the fourth largest availability of offshore wind, which the Stanford study says is capable of providing 60% of Virginia’s electricity needs.

    Furthermore, a CitiGroup white paper predicts future grid-demand could decline by as much as 50%. As I stated in my October 22, 2015 submission, EPA projections have been very inaccurate. The EPA has not considered the expanded growth rate of solar and wind as developing industries. They also have only begun to consider distributed solar as a way to meet the growth of electricity demand. As a result their demand projections are unrealistically high, and those projections are used by utilities that have disregarded the inevitable development of on-site generation and more efficient buildings.

    The need to build new pipelines should be based on more than in-house corporate contracts. I urge the Commission to include, in your permitting discussion, the current upheaval in fossil fuel industries and the dramatic changes currently underway in the business models of our old monopoly structured utilities. I sincerely hope that you will.

    • Apparently someone thinks the supply of Marcus Shale gas is large enough to be worth a pipeline and then some.

      but if shale gas is truly a limited and finite resource and the only fuel to be able to complement solar and wind – as well as respond to peak demand it seems shortsighted to get it extracted and sold as quickly as possible for as much as possible.

      we’re always whining about the cost of energy and how it affect our ability to compete with other countries – but then others here are more than happy to cash in as quickly as they can – even if it’s not in the longer term interest of the country.

      We need to treat natural gas – as a strategic fuel – in my view – something we need to protect and preserve for as long as we can – until we know it is not needed for peak demand and for wind and solar.

      that could be 20 years or it could be 100 years…

      once upon a time this country created a strategic oil reserve. We ought to be doing that with gas right now. Perhaps at some point in the future we won’t need it – but at this point – what would we do if gas becomes scarce and triples in price?

  4. Well we have 2 different subjects here. The one I have some experience is groundwater. Shallow ground water could be vulnerable to various contamination sources. Sounds like the experts feel the drinking water wells are not located in the impact zone of the coal ash. That of course does not mean the water is not contaminated, just means any contamination sources may not be the coal ash. Groundwater flows like a slow underground river, so if you are upstream of the coal ash, then it is would be unlikely to have reverse flows.

  5. “upstream” in groundwater may not correspond with surface streams, right?

    I think the point here is that without sufficient analysis of the strata and aquifers… it’s just conjecture.

    you can STILL take water samples at various location and levels then analyze the characteristics to determine a “signature” then compare – and if two samples from different places have similar characteristics – or very different characteristics, you do know more than if you just made assumptions.

    just sampling well water to see if it meets “standards” doesn’t really tell you near as much – if you actually compared the different wells for each characteristic to see if they were similar or not.

    all of that would come from a more comprehensive study of the groundwater which you really have to do if you are going to make any kind of informed decisions.

    something really simple – what is the level of the groundwater and what is that level relative to the depth of the coal ash pond. If the pond actually sitting in that aquifer or above it or below it? You need to know that if you want to leave it as is and cap it. and where is that groundwater relative to residential wells in the vicinity? These are fairly basic and simple things to find out.

    What Dominion seems to be looking for is permission to walk away without further investigation and DEQ seems amenable to doing just that.

    That’s seems not responsible and it’s not in the public interest and labeling the folks who are asking these questions as “radical” environmentalists – just not reasonable.

    You know -we talk about “subsidies” for renewables and then we look at something like this – and basically deny it as not a subsidy if you just ignore it and walk away from it. Yes – there is a real cost to disposing of coal ash – it’s not just an “externality”.

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