Chickahominy Power: Another Cynical Hijacking of “Environmental Justice”

by James A. Bacon

For many years we have heard how in our unjust capitalist system investment capital bypasses poor, minority neighborhoods. Under-investment means fewer jobs and economic opportunities for African-American workers and small businesses. The goal of much public policy, from government-subsidized urban redevelopment to tax-exempt enterprise zones, is to stimulate more investment in minority neighborhoods.

But when someone proposes an investment, it is not always welcome. Take, for example, the proposal to build the $1.6 billion Chickahominy Power Station in Charles City County, a poor, predominantly African-American county between Richmond and Hampton Roads.

With a capacity of 1,650 megawatts, the natural gas-fired power plant would sell electricity into the PJM wholesale market, in effect exporting electricity to the Mid-Atlantic states. But the facility, we hear from The Virginia Mercury, is an affront to environmental justice. As evidence, the Mercury cites a certain Stephen Metts of the New School in New York, who found the following:

Four census tracts surrounding the proposed Chickahominy Power Station site far exceed state averages for minority and economically disadvantaged populations. In three, minorities make up more than 65 percent of the population, compared to a statewide average of 37 percent, while in two, the percentage of residents living in poverty is between 21 and 26 percent, compared to 12 percent statewide.

Foes of the project have suggested that the proposed plant would have a negative environmental impact on minority communities by withdrawing groundwater and emitting air pollution. It’s not clear from that Mercury article or any other that I could find,  however, what precisely that negative impact might be.

The company has touted the fact that the facility will be “the cleanest facility” of its type in the U.S. It will use air-cooling technology to manage turbine temperatures and reduce water consumption. The Department of Environmental Quality said last year that revisions to the draft air pollution permit made it “more stringent compared to any other power facility in the country.”

True, the power plant would withdraw water from the shrinking Potomac Aquifer, which its owners propose to address long-term through an arrangement with neighboring New Kent County, but that won’t affect nearby landowners. Home wells don’t go deep enough to draw from the Potomac Aquifer. As for air pollution, natural gas isn’t coal. It emits almost zero heavy metals and particulates. The primary emission, carbon dioxide, may contribute to global warming but increased CO2 will have not impact locally.

While environmentalists have trouble spelling out how minorities living near the plant might be endangered, they insist that there must be environmental injustice in there somewhere. Reports the Virginia Mercury:

Gustavo Angeles, the environmental justice program coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter, contended that DEQ’s conclusions about the environmental justice implications of the project were not valid because the department “does not know how to do environmental justice.”

Earlier this year, he argued, the agency hired consultants to conduct an environmental justice study of the department, “acknowledging by doing that that they are not capable of doing environmental justice for themselves.”

Got that? Angeles proffers no evidence of environmental harm. He just attacks DEQ credibility.

Meanwhile, in the grand tradition of telling only one side of the story, the Virginia Mercury neglects to address any of the following questions: How many construction jobs will there be? Where will the workers come from? What percentage of those workers will be minorities? How many permanent jobs will be created, who will fill those jobs, and how many will be minorities?

We do know that Charles City County supports the project — another fact the Mercury omits. “We want economic development,” Rachel Chieppa, assistant administrator for Charles City County told Commercial Property Executive in 2018. “We have a designated area for development and that’s where these two plants (Chickahominy Power and C4GT LLC) are being built.”

The two natural gas projects would provide a phenomenal boost to the tax base of one of Virginia’s poorest counties. A Waste Management landfill — which was built before environmentalists had glommed onto the environmental justice idea — provides an outsized share of tax revenue today. As a consequence, Charles City managed to spend $16,448 per student in the 2019-20 school year — almost $2,000 per student more than Loudoun County, the richest county in the state. A majority of students are African-American.

The addition of two natural gas plants would turbo-charge the county budget, giving it the latitude to devote even more spending on schools as well as other amenities for the county’s majority-minority population (44.5% African-American, 6.7% American Indian).

In sum, the assertion that building a $1.6 billion power plant in Charles City County constitutes environmental racism is a fraud. Perhaps the Mercury should ask a few African-American residents of Charles City County whether or not they welcome the investment instead of highlighting the comments of white environmentalists like those on the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is leading the criticism. Take a look at the SELC website, which shows photos of the nonprofit’s 156 staff members. Only four appear to be African-American. Maybe someone ought to investigate SELC employment practices for violating social justice principles!

The SELC, Sierra Club and other environmental groups oppose every natural gas plant ever proposed on the grounds that they emit CO2, which is implicated in global warming. The rhetoric about “environmental justice” is purely tactical — another rhetorical device in the ongoing P.R. battle to shut down the fossil-fuel plants by any means necessary. If these groups truly cared about the welfare of poor minorities, they would support the construction of gas plants that would create jobs, fill the coffers of Charles City County, and immeasurably improve the lives of the county’s minority residents.

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103 responses to “Chickahominy Power: Another Cynical Hijacking of “Environmental Justice”

  1. The company’s website says the plant create a whopping 35 permanent jobs. There goes your argument. As I have blogged before, there are serious questions about the need for the project

    • If it were 1000 jobs you’d whine about the traffic.

    • Might be wrong, but the big Chick is the last unindustrialized river in Virginia. Bad enough VDOT exchanged the rotating span with a fixed 35′ bridge thus eliminating some of the most beautiful cruising grounds to sailboats.

      • Never mind. I suppose they just call it the Chickahominy Power Station because they like the sound of Chickahominy.

        The proposed location in Charles City is on the other side of the James, not near Big Chick.

        • Nancy, got a lat/long or location?

          • No, but using a real computer and not this stupid iPad, with the Mercury sat photo and Google Earth, it should be easy, and fun, to locate.

          • mystery solved – Facebook Data Center about 6 miles from Roxbury site of the plant.

        • “The proposed location in Charles City is on the other side of the James, not near Big Chick.”

          Not sure how that can be since Charles City lies entirely north of the James. I grew up two miles from Roxbury- it is withing spitting distance of the Chickahominy

          • Nancy_Naive

            Hopewell, doh! CC is west of the Chick. Ooooh, that puts this sucker square in the Chick’s watershed. Reason enough to fight it.

      • You’d have to be using the old 3-lung Universal the whole time…

        Also I question if the depth is even as good as the Dismal Swamp Canal plus you’ve probably got those pesky overhanging scuppernong grape trees.

        • I had a J/24 in the 80s. Spouse and I sailed up to The Haven area every Labor Day weekend for years. Even sailed through the Thoroughfare. That was a hoot. One year I was coming around the first bend when a powerboat with just one person, pulling a skier, came the other way at 25 or 30. Wish you coulda seen her eyes when she looked forward… wish I coulda seen mine. It’s a beautiful river, especially as the sun is going down.

        • Used to anchor off N. Riverside. The marina and Blue Heron wasn’t there (opposite side) and maybe 60 yards off the beach it was 10+ feet. The biggest boat to join us was a NY 32, 32 feet of waterline with 12 feet of overhang bow and stern.

          https://www.google.com/maps/@37.3626016,-76.9063843,15z

  2. Although your points on economic “improvement” are valid, you really should speak to the locals before promoting radical change for their county. You presume your definition of improvement is the same as theirs. The resulting development is mostly unwanted, except by the few who have large tracts of land they want to develop. I believe you will find the majority of residents prefer to commute to their jobs and be able to come home to their rural county. The real reason to put the gas plant here is because land is cheap and Charles City has little experience with big, nonlocal business and will be a pushover.

  3. Oh and the Mercury article notes that the water board received 1400 negative comments. I don’t see that in your piece. I also fail to see why the Mercury should not bring up low income minorities. That is called reporting in case you have forgotten.

  4. What I find interesting, aside from the environmental justice issue is the fact that on one hand – we’ve heard that Dominion has pulled back on gas plants especially for the ACP but here we have an independent company who thinks there is “demand” for electricity – but apparently not in Virginia?

    And what about THEIR supply of natural gas – from the ACP or not?

    Finally, why would they locate in Virginia if they were going to sell to PJM? Why not locate further north and perhaps closer to an existing gas pipeline?

    ‘All kinds of questions here … and I’ll leave the “environmentalists are lowlife skumbag hypocrites” dialog to Mr. B!

    • Uh, Larry — don’t you read this blog? Dominion is still whole hog into gas plants, and could be building more. Normally you aren’t one of the people falling for their BS press campaigns…..

      Clearly the people behind this plant have a valid business plan or they’d get no funding. They are taking actual risk, something never done by Dominion. Never. People who think solar and wind will power their future are in for expensive disappointments. I think the location is driven by the gas supply itself, which got a semi-endorsement from the SCC. It will be contingent on the plants actually getting all the permits and funding they need.

      https://www.amazon.com/Apocalypse-Never-Environmental-Alarmism-Hurts/dp/0063001691

      This is a good time to bring up the just published “Apocalypse Never.” This one is causing the same level of heartburn among the Greenies as the Michael Moore movie, which they finally did get shoved off YouTube. My next Amazon order will include a copy. Happy to share once I’m finished.

      Former regular Tom Hadwin helped convince me of the need for more merchant generation and less utility-owned generation, but it turns out he’s part of the Gas is Evil crowd so I suspect he’s trying to kill the Charles City merchant plants.

      • No Steve.. didn’t they say they weren’t going to build a bunch more and because of that they changed the purpose of the ACP?

        I STILL wonder WHY – ANY proposed gas plant – Dom or merchant would not be sited – co-located to a pipeline… to start with.

        hey – do you think a similar argument could be made for or against a solar farm?

        • Why build the plant? To….make….money. To provide a product people want to buy. This is co-located with a pipeline, but the pipeline needs to be upgraded to meet the new demand. That used to be considered a good thing.

          • co-located on EXISTING pipeline rights of ways.

            I forget how many jobs these plants provide when operating but not that many and most of them are specialized training jobs.

            the whole dialogue about minorities and jobs is just wretched partisan boogers… No jobs at Union Hill, right?

            in terms of location… my bet is there is a reason why this plant is here and not somewhere else… and once it’s up and operating, it’ll be more like a solar farm or electric transformer station than any kind of real job provider.

  5. What would the plant generate in local real estate or substitute taxes? I realize that identifying and researching this issue would be over the head of ab out 95% of today’s “journalists” but it is certainly a real factor in the equation. What could the extra tax dollars do for local schools? Residential real estate tax rates?

    It also seems racist for non-blacks to attempt to speak for black people. Is Stephen Metts black? Gustavo Angeles?

    • The tax projections are bound to be on the record somewhere. Real property, machinery and tools, business personal property, sales taxes on the construction materials, gross receipts taxes on the construction firms. The property taxes would be on the plant, and everything connected to it — pipelines, transmission lines, substations. And should it prove profitable – the goal of course – the state takes its income tax. The 35 jobs would pay well.

  6. Do we really need the gratuitous put down of journalists?

    • It’s not gratitious. Journalism is clearly one of the most dishonest professions in the world. Do you really need me to go through the list I have on the Post?

      Why didn’t the Mercury challenge the apparently non-black and non-local speakers for their speaking for the residents of Charles City County? Why didn’t they get into the issue of taxes and impact on the local community? It’s pure bias, which I learned in my high school journalism unit, was unprofessional.

      • I don’t know who spoke that day, but I do know for sure that local minority citizens ARE involved and ARE opposed to this project. Some don’t have the kind of jobs that allow them to participate in daytime meetings. Others have health issues, inadequate internet, and other challenges. I can assure you the locals are not taken over by outsiders as you imply. There were 1,400 comments in opposition.

        If they got into taxes and local impact, they’d need to cover all aspects, not just benefits, as is typical. Too often the costs are claimed to be indeterminate and those who absorb them are not compensated.

        • How many of the 1400 comments were in a canned format and the verbiage distributed by the professional environmental groups? And why isn’t it racist for non-black people to come to a majority African-American community to speak for the residents? That would be like the ACLU coming to Minneapolis and speaking for the Lake Street community about its relationship with the police department.

          Why would the media interview a professor and a professional environmentalist instead of the local leaders? The media managed to interview some ordinary people in Minneapolis, Louisville and Atlanta.

          I don’t begrudge locals in opposing or supporting any project. If the people who live in Charles City County don’t want the plant, go after it.
          However, we always seem to see a bunch of white folks speaking for black folks on the matter of “environmental justice.”

          • I bet if they proposed it in NoVa- all hell would break loose, no?

          • TooManyTaxes

            Larry, “I don’t begrudge locals in opposing or supporting any project. If the people who live in Charles City County don’t want the plant, go after it. However, we always seem to see a bunch of white folks speaking for black folks on the matter of ‘environmental justice.’”

          • re: ” we always seem to see a bunch of white folks speaking for black folks on the matter of ‘environmental justice.’”

            that might be true……….

          • vaconsumeradvocate

            When these issues come up local people usually have to quickly get up to speed. Often we turn to people who can help us figure that out. The people these companies like to prey on are not used to speaking publicly, to writing formal complaints, etc.

            If a wealthy area were targeted with such stuff, those speaking would likely be a bunch of attorneys instead of the landowners. The people they’ve targeted don’t normally turn to attorneys and couldn’t afford them if they did. They enlist the help they can get. I assure you that the people speaking are well versed in what the community thinks and were representing that, not themselves.

            In my experience, the powerful attempt to force their foes to put up their weakest representative. For example, when Dominion took my family to court for their ACP easement, 10 minutes before the judge arrived Dominion’s attorney told us that they would only accept my 80-something year old mother to testify since the portion of the land they will cross is in the two trusts she legally administers even though we manage it as a whole and we all own parts. They knew my husband, who manages the business, had been preparing for weeks. They knew my mother had not. Our attorney told us we couldn’t fight it. There were so many things my mother answered: “I couldn’t tell you but my son-in-law could” that at the end the judge wondered why the son-in-law didn’t testify. We couldn’t say anything. It was one more example of the downright dirty way we’ve been treated. It was a horrible experience for us – and we’re not just backwoods hick farmers with no experience. I suspect many people don’t even attempt to fight because they think they can’t and all is stacked against them.

            In the case of the Charles City County issue, the people speaking work closely with the community and were not being racist by speaking. I don’t know why they were the ones who spoke, but I do know the why’s are often not what they appear. In this case, those speaking were very much representing the affected community.

  7. Curious the SCC just delayed a Virginia Natural Gas pipeline project in Tidewater. Complaints say it would unfairly impact low income minorities. Of course no mention in BR

  8. I want to know if SELC and the Sierra Club will fight for the low income minority community of Portsmouth when the offshore wind turbine project gets going full speed. The location at the marine terminal for staging the offshore equipment has been leased. Will this industrial use also be vilified for disproportionately affecting low income minorities? I’m sure at a minimum there will be increased traffic and with it particulate matter and emissions spewed into neighborhoods. Sometimes green isn’t completely green.

    • Is this a new terminal or existing? Is it next to the low income minority community or other industrial? If not for this activity, would similarly polluting activity happen there anyway?

      It’s a no win situation. Do enough to be considered completely green and you’ll be told the demands are unreasonable. Accept some activity and you’ll be told you aren’t “really” green.

  9. TMT. I have contributed to the Post Opinions section for the past 10 years and have never seen the “dishonesty” you allege. I am not linger going to let such allegations go unchallenged

    • So what about a Post reporter being told by editors not to write anything negative about then Governor Tim Kaine? I was told that on a phone call by the reporter. I don’t identify the reporter who still works at the paper. The paper has a written policy that the editorial board is not permitted to influence the reporters – except when it protects Democrats. Old Freddie should have been suspended for that one. Somehow I think BusinessWeek would have enforced that one.

      The Post managed to spend big bucks on the Roy Moore story but failed to go after Blackface Lt. Governor Northam, accused sexual assaulter Justin Fairfax and, after largely ignoring Juanita Brodderick, endorsed sex abuser (rapist) Bill Clinton and his spouse who called her husband’s accusers “trailer trash.” Imagine if the D labels were R.

      Try getting a letter to the editor or op-ed published when it opposes spending or tax increases in Virginia. Twice I submitted pieces calling for increases in permit fees for overweight trucks, but was told it wasn’t a subject of interest despite editorials calling for gas tax increases. Yet, I presented the same argument to Delegate Mark Keam (D. Fairfax) and he promptly joined then GOP Delegate Joe May and introduced legislation that raised permit fees. I know a lot of other people who have tried to submit letters exposing wasteful spending in Virginia who were similarly rejected. But write a “gee I’d be happy to pay more taxes” letter and watch it get published.

      The Post regularly published pieces by developer Til Hazel who is still looking for taxpayers to build him some more roads so his properties can be developed.

      I raised the permit fee issue last winter with a Post reporter I know. He took the info internally and was told that it wasn’t the type of story the Post was interested in. They were happy with the tax increase.

      • And everything I’ve submitted to the Richmond paper in recent years has been refused – to the point that I don’t even bother these days. Since they turn me down, maybe they’d respond to you. Maybe you’re working with the wrong paper.

  10. TMT. I spent 15 years at BusinessWeek where they had very strict ethics rules. We could not speak to ad sales people. When I came to Richmond to edit a business magazine, it was a true culture shock.

  11. Steve. Funny how nothing changes. Back in the early 1970s I worked for a tiny daily in North Carolina. The county had huge deposits of phosphates used for fertilizer. A Texas company built a huge open put mine. The water table was high so the company had a big project to pump billions of gallons of groundwater to keep an aquifer from flooding the pits. It worked but the wells of hundreds of residents went dry. The mine and processing facilities did pay taxes but had few permanent workers. They paid well but demanded lots of skills. The local schools could not produce qualified labor, so jobs were imported from Florida and Texas. The facility later became one if the biggest air polluters in North Carolina history.

  12. This may be part of the cleanest ever facility, but the fact remains that there is pollution – carbon, particulate matter, carbon, methane (which isn’t even measured). For a similar facility, the locals were told that our air is so clean we can afford the additional pollution, that the limits set will protect our health like it does for people other places. This shows no consideration for making us give up the clean air we currently have. We’re still expected to do without many of the amenities folks in more populated areas depend upon – while giving up the peace, darkness at night, clean environment, etc. rural living gives us. (No, tax payments and jobs that don’t come to locals don’t count.)

    By locating this energy infrastructure in this community, the opportunity to have jobs come in that would be easier to live with in peace and health is taken away. The people who live around this facility will face property devaluation and risks for which they will not be compensated.

    Even if this is an industrial zone, how did that decision get made? Was fairness to all local citizens, including minorities, considered? Was any attempt made to ensure that those affected by whatever goes there benefit in some way?

    We’ve got to stop taking from those who have the least, sentencing them to always have the least. This kind of infrastructure won’t make their land more valuable or their environment more healthy. It will take something from them. Historically, that’s ignored. What I hear people saying is that cannot continue.

  13. And that is how Big Coal took advantage of ignorance and poverty and destroyed lives and the environment in places like West Virginia. What say you, bacon? Want to read my book or watch the movie again?

  14. “Four census tracts surrounding the proposed Chickahominy Power Station site far exceed state averages for minority and economically disadvantaged populations. In three, minorities make up more than 65 percent of the population, compared to a statewide average of 37 percent, while in two, the percentage of residents living in poverty is between 21 and 26 percent, compared to 12 percent statewide.”

    Sure, locate it where the people haven’t the means to fight it. Then, make promises of jobs, 3/4 of which, will require college degrees and/or extensive post HS training and education. The local restaurant will benefit.

    • Wow, NN, you’ve hit upon a great business model! Try locating power plants in locations where the real estate is MORE expensive, the population DENSER, the impacts WORSE, and the local population, MORE willing and able to fight it. A great formula for never building infrastructure ever again.

      • I’m sure wherever it is built, bronze fittings will be needed, and I have a plan for those too.

        NIMBY is easier for you. Maybe the state could condemn Shortpump.

        Meanwhile, 27 miles at sea yesterday…

        • interesting article – more than one plant proposed:

          A proposed new natural gas-fired power plant in Charles City County, which, if built, would be among the largest power generators in the state, has sparked few objections, even as other new gas infrastructure has faced a contentious path to approval.

          Only three people spoke at a hearing hosted by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality March 5 on the granting of a “prevention of significant deterioration” permit for the planned Chickahominy Power Station.

          The permits are required for the construction of any new air pollution source that emits more than 100 tons per year of any of a set of pollutants identified by DEQ, including sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter, among others.

          For Charles City Supervisor Bill Coada, who attended DEQ’s March 5 hearing, there was little to fear from the proposed natural gas power station.

          “Of course we have concerns about the air quality,” he said. But, he added, “if you compare it to a coal-fired unit, you’ll find these are much cleaner.”

          The Chickahominy Power Station is being developed by Chickahominy Power, LLC, a subsidiary of Balico, LLC, that was formed for the purpose of developing and operating the facility. Plans submitted to the State Corporation Commission and DEQ describe it as a combined-cycle natural gas generation facility with three turbines that will be capable of producing 1,650 megawatts. By comparison, Dominion Energy’s recently finished Greensville combined cycle power station is 1,588 megawatts and the company’s coal-fired Chesterfield Power Station is the largest fossil-fuel plant in Virginia at 1,640 megawatts.

          As an independent power producer, Chickahominy would sell its power directly to the PJM Interconnection wholesale market.

          Located just over half a mile east of the intersection of Chambers and Roxbury Roads, the project’s 185-acre site surrounds Dominion Energy’s existing Chickahominy Substation and is crossed by two of Dominion’s transmission lines and a Virginia Natural Gas pipeline.

          https://www.virginiamercury.com/2019/03/19/comment-closes-wednesday-on-permit-for-new-natural-gas-power-plant-in-charles-city/

          • Steve Haner

            Sounds like a perfect setting, already heavily used for similar purposes.

          • Nancy_Naive

            If the fossil industry and centralized generation industry wasn’t so heavily subsidized, we’d have a much better system today. Soon, we’ll look like India.

          • two plants, not one, and not where the ACP route is…

            VNG is saying that both plants will strain their supply.

            ” A recent statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by Argan Inc., whose subsidiary Gemma Power has been contracted to construct the Chickahominy Power plant, indicated that the project’s future is up in the air. “Due to several factors that are slowing the pace of the development of this project,” the company wrote, “including additional time being required to secure the natural gas supply for the plant and to obtain the necessary equity financing, we currently cannot predict when construction will commence, if at all.” (emphasis added).

            For these reasons, Argan did not include Chickahominy Power Station in its backlog list for the total value of its projects.

            The plant’s ongoing inability to secure financing has likely been compounded by its failed attempt to carve itself out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a carbon trading program Virginia recently joined. As the Energy and Policy Institute revealed in February, a bill to provide the two Charles City County gas plants with carbon allowances that would have essentially exempted them from RGGI’s trading scheme in their first three years of operation was crafted by a lobbyist for Chickahominy Power. The ensuing outrage and pressure from opponents led the bill’s sponsor, Senator Lionell Spruill, to withdraw it shortly after it passed the state’s senate.

            C4GT’s “slight delay”

            C4GT is experiencing its own set of hurdles. While the plant has already received all of its state permits, it still needs to secure the gas supply to fuel its turbines. Late last year, Southern Company’s subsidiary Virginia Natural Gas (VNG) began the permitting process for its Header Improvement Project, a 24-mile pipeline that will supply gas to C4GT. The project includes two new compressor stations and an upgrade to an existing one.

            In recent filings to the State Corporation Commission, VNG indicated that C4GT – the pipeline’s main customer – is experiencing a “slight delay,” the exact details of which have been redacted. According to VNG’s statement, the delay is “due to uncertainty in the gas supply and financial markets caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.”

            https://www.energyandpolicy.org/two-controversial-virginia-gas-plants-face-increasing-uncertainty-documents-show/

            so all of this stuff is going on – but Jim focuses on the enviro folks….

            not surprised… getting to be a regular thing.

            Jim seems to think that if Virginia Mercury doesn’t report the way he wants that he’s going to compensate by reporting the way he sees it. The problem is – that it’s totally convoluted and off the main issues… almost like an excuse to go after the enviros.

            There are some major issues with these projects with respect to the way that power is produced in Virginia – well worthy of on in-depth article about why these two companies and why at this location and not where the ACP is, and what Dominion’s relationship is with them – if Dominion plans on buying power from them via PGM.

            but no – we gotta drill down on the enviro-weenie stuff!

  15. Natural gas power plants with appropriate control technology is essentially pollution free, excepting for CO2 of course. CO2 is non-toxic but of course is a greenhouse gas. I am not aware of any community pollution issues, whatsover, from natural gas power plants. The plants do consume water, but air cooling is a possible alternate.

    I do not consider a modern plant, with state of the art pollution controls, to be environmental racism.

    On the other hand, this is a huge plant. We’d have to cover half the state with solar panels to equal this power generation. Utilities always want to build humongous facilities. One good thing about solar/wind is getting utilities more in the smaller project mentality.

    Of course Dominion wants go huge on off-shore wind, and should be getting started very soon when the 2 test turbines are finished (this month?). These new wind turbines will be the only big, far-off shore turbines on the East Coast, not counting the several, less ambitious RI (near shore) turbines.

    • re: ” We’d have to cover half the state with solar panels to equal this power generation”

      not even close. 1650 mw verses Spower 500 mw on 3500 acres which is a square 2.5 miles on a side.

      solar cannot provide power 24/7 – but whatever it can provide – is power than does not have to be generated with natural gas. It’s not only cheaper , it’s less polluting.

      We make solar the enemy of gas – but they are reallty complementary.

      a large majority of people – way, way more than those pesky enviro weenies – WANT less expensive and less polluting energy.

      why this has to be a “contest” is beyond me…. it’s sorta like the face masks… it’s not really about the masks

      • Take account for clouds and night impact on the power recovery, and get back to me.

        • clouds and night don’t impact the time when it CAN generate power for less money and less pollution.

          It makes no sense to say that it’s not legitimate power unless it generates 24/7. It’s legitimate if it can produce even one hour of less cost and less pollution – and you add to that – even if it does not get to 24/7 – 15 hours a day is 15 hours less cost and less pollution. why would you not want that?

          • Nancy_Naive

            Psst, Larry, mention advances in battery development over the past 10 years. You can also mention the research into mechanical storage devices, e.g., compressed air, and raised water, like Smith Mountain. The compressed air is for home use and prototyped. Kinda fun. Almost Popular Mechanics stuff. Solar gens daytime, excess compresses air that is used for nighttime generation.

          • there are a number of innovations showing promise – but the thing that amazes me is the skepticism and opposition – and folks waiting to cling to the fossil fuel regime.

            It makes no sense. No, we’re not going to drop fossil fuels and adopt technologies that are not reliable – never were – dunno why that’s the narrative…

            It’s like the folks who were opposed to LEDs… and claimed the government was “forcing” them to buy LEDs by outlawing incandescent. it was stone-cold dumb but it was/is a “thing”.

            who wouldn’t want lower energy costs and less pollution?

          • “It’s like the folks who were opposed to LEDs… and claimed the government was “forcing” them to buy LEDs by outlawing incandescent. it was stone-cold dumb but it was/is a “thing”.“

            I think your memory is not accurate. At the time incandescent bulbs were outlawed, fluorescent was the only realistic alternative. LEDs were still not quite there. Fluorescent lighting was, and still is, a poor and expensive solution – especially for commercial applications where spent bulbs must be disposed of as hazardous waste.

            LED lighting has come a long way in the last ten years and is [now] superior to incandescent lighting for most applications. This was not the case when incandescent light bulbs were first outlawed.

          • well, here’s one account (2014):

            The incandescent light bulb isn’t dead
            Reports were greatly exaggerated

            Perhaps you’ve heard the news: the incandescent light bulb is dead. “When the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, the year ends — and so does the ordinary lightbulb,” read Fox News’ website. CNN even penned an obituary. That’s because, according to countless media reports, January 1st marks the “light bulb ban.” Today’s the day when the US government finally phases out the dated technology by banning the manufacture or import of 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs, which are repeatedly cited as the most popular bulbs in the US. The reports typically suggest that consumers get used to buying pricier, more efficient compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, or else stock up on incandescents while supplies last.

            Unfortunately, little of that is true. There is no such thing as an incandescent light bulb ban in the United States. In fact, on the very same day that the 60-watt incandescent light bulb disappears, you’ll be able to buy a 43-watt incandescent light bulb to take its place. Or a 72-watt incandescent bulb. Or a 150-watt incandescent bulb. Or a three-way incandescent light bulb. Or one with a more durable filament for “rough service” applications. There are literally dozens of loopholes. “It’s not like tomorrow people won’t be able to buy an incandescent light bulb,” says GE’s John Strainic.

            So what is actually happening on January 1st? The cost of an ordinary light bulb will drastically rise — and hopefully your electricity bill will fall. The so-called bulb ban is simply a government-mandated energy efficiency standard at work. Seven years ago, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (PDF) into law, and its final light bulb provisions take effect today. They simply require that the most popular light bulbs are roughly 25 percent more efficient — that you only need 43 watts to generate the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent.

            https://www.theverge.com/2014/1/1/5263826/the-incandescent-light-bulb-isnt-dead

  16. we’re gonna provide you folks with jobs and benefits even if you don’t want them.

    but I’m still wondering how these guys can do this – when it’s Dominion’s territory. What keeps a whole bunch more of these folks from coming in and taking more business away from Dom?

    If Dom can build a plant – even if it is not needed and get ratepayers to pay for it – why can’t they build this plant for LESS than the independent merchants who don’t have a rate base subsidy?

    What keeps Dom and the electric coops from slowly being eaten up my independent merchants?

    • That’s why they oppose the competitive market and tend to buy up merchant facilities. So far, Dominion is the most powerful in the market and has the rules set so it stays that way. This energy will likely be sold elsewhere and will not compete with Dominion. Likely, after all the hoopla settles down Dominion buys them out like it did the early merchant peakers.

      • are you saying that this is really a Dominion-owned plant and it allows them to make more money this way that if they were selling power from their own plants to PJM?

        • No. I’m saying that it won’t be surprising if Dominion ultimately buys them out down the road. It’s what happened in the past when others built things here. Once we gave up on the competitive market and made Dominion’s hybrid legislation the law, Dominion quietly bought most of the peaker generation plants that had popped up.

    • Larry,

      The merchant generators do not take business from Dominion. They sell into the PJM wholesale market. Dominion must still own or have under contract sufficient generation to meet its peak demand plus a reserve.

    • Merchant generators do not sell directly to any customers in Virginia. It doesn’t matter whose territory the plant is located within.

      It is because of the ratebase subsidy that Dominion enjoys that the plants it builds are much more expensive for customers than if Dominion built the same plant and ran it as a merchant generator. Dominion is guaranteed a profit for building the plant. It has an additional profit opportunity from selling the energy the plant generates.

      • Yep, I understand (I think). It’s just weird that we have merchant natural gas IN Virginia that is not to provide power to Virginia?

        or is it like the Birchwood Power Plant near Fredericksburg – a non-Dominion coal plant that apparently Dominion calls up on a dispatch basis.

        In this case, it’s the location where a gas pipeline intersects Doms electricity lines… but I’m quite sure such “intersections” occur all over the place in PGM states – I KNOW in theory you can just put the power in.

        So, are these two gas plants – competitors of Dom or partners with Dom or what?

        • Larry, This plant is being built to sell electricity to whomever buys it. It is not part of the system that is designed to serve Virginia. These folks are building this to sell via PJM to the highest bidder. Dominion is not part of it (although folks seem to think they are supporting it.) It is not required that they have anything to so with Dominion because they are not selling in Dominion’s territory.

          • Could these plants also function as dispatch partners for Dominion – like the Birchwood Coal Plant near Fredericksburg does/did?

            What keeps Dominion from acquiring or owning them or having them as subsidiaries?

          • vaconsumeradvocate

            Larry, Could happen. Nothing keeps Dominion from acquiring them and that was one of my points earlier. Dominion prefers to own things that exist within its territory, even those that don’t serve it, so I won’t be surprised if they end up owning them.

        • If Dom ends up owning them… can they then use them to provide power to Virginia via PJM or will they essentially be in the business of selling power to PJM?

          If they end up buying these units – is that any different than if they built them originally with SCC approval?

          last question – promise… 😉

  17. Nancy. Mate wan is terrific but the movie in which I participated is 2016’s “blood on the mountain.”’it is available from streaming on Amazon And was available on Netflix for a couple years. I published a book in 2012 titled “thunder on the mountain. Death at Massey and dirty secrets behind big coal” (st.martins press) wvu press bought rights and published an updated paperback edition in 2014. Jim bacon, who trashed my work in a review, is working on a self-published, family-paid history of the Massey Family. I hope to read it someday although I do note the different level of publishing. Big New York publisher versus vanity press.

  18. I believe most Charles City residents would prefer it to the “infamous” Charles City trash trucks . . .

  19. Steve H. Of course you have a deeper understanding of natural gas merchant plants than anyone else. What’s next? Another vicious trashing of Sarah Vogelsong?

    • No, then you’d send me another direct email like you did last week calling me “a nasty sh&t.” It shook me so deeply….can’t take any more…

  20. It is difficult to respond to articles on complicated energy issues in a few paragraphs, but there are many points that need to be cleared up to further the dialogue about Chickahominy. I will try to keep it short.

    Jobs
    Developers of all stripes usually tout new jobs as the reason to support their project. This project will employ 800-1000 workers over 3 years of construction. Many workers in building trades currently working for major contractors will come from the Richmond area. Specialized crafts for installing the gas turbine, the generator, the substation, etc. will probably come from out of state. Each trade will be on-site for a few weeks to many months. This is temporary work for someone who is already employed, not a new job.

    Most of the 35 permanent jobs will require skill and experience running a power plant. Few, if any, new permanent jobs will be created in Charles City County by this project.

    Taxes
    Chickahominy will pay local taxes, but the amount is capped, with a 25% refund in the first 10 years and a 10% refund in the second 10 years. All fees for building permits, sewer and water connections will be reimbursed to Chickahominy. Reduced property values surrounding the plant will lower total tax revenues. Increased income from Chickahominy will result in reduced contributions from the state for education expenses. Local residents will have to pay more for road improvements and repairs, extra police during construction, etc. The net increase in local revenues is not yet clear and the county government does not share much information with the public.

    No provisions have been made for decommissioning the plant and restoring the area after plant retirement, which could happen at any time.

    Air Quality
    The two merchant generators proposed in Charles City County would be only the 5th instance in the U.S. where two power plants totaling more than 2,500 MW of fossil-fired capacity are located within about a mile of one another. The national ambient air quality standards modeled by the DEQ do not consider health effects on people close to the plants. The fine particulates emitted in close proximity to gas-fired facilities can have significant health effects on nearby populations. Minority communities have a higher degree of asthma and respiratory illnesses than average.

    Many residents of Charles City County feel that their Board of Supervisors sold them out for the benefit of a few. New laws in Virginia require that environmental justice considerations be part of the evaluation of new energy projects. Minority populations and indigenous tribes deserve the same consideration as any citizen of Virginia. They are our neighbors. I am surprised that following state law is somehow a “fraud.”

    County residents will have their rural county significantly disrupted by these industrial facilities. Chickahominy will sell its energy into the 13-state PJM region. There is no contract to sell energy to any Virginia utility. This project for private profit will add to the energy costs of Virginia utility customers. Chickahominy and C4GT will contribute 55% of the carbon cap in Virginia in 2030 that is supposed to be shared with 33 other power plants. Competition for limited allowances will increase the price or cause other facilities to retire earlier, requiring customers to continue to pay for them without receiving any energy in return.

    Water Use
    The awarded water permit allows for the removal of up to 210 million gallons over seven years from the Potomac Aquifer, which the DEQ admits is in decline. After seven years the needed water would be supplied from adjacent New Kent County. Typically, residential and commercial water use is given priority over industrial withdrawals. Water use by electric power generators is the single largest source of withdrawals in the U.S. (40%).

    Chickahominy will use a dry-cooling design that will reduce water use and save money. In the future, ready access to fresh water will become as important as having adequate energy. It is puzzling that the DEQ would consider the withdrawal of hundreds of millions of gallons from an essential aquifer to be a “long term benefit.”

    Business Case
    Chickahominy intends to use the expanded Virginia Natural Gas pipeline that was recently rebuffed, without prejudice, by the SCC. They could not make a formal request for service without being fully permitted, which has now occurred.

    But this does not mean the Chickahominy project will be off and running. The market for new generating additions is dismal. PJM’s demand is down 5-10% since March and might take years to recover to 2019 levels.

    Steve is right, I have advocated that all new generation in Virginia be accomplished as merchant generators, because utilities tend to overbuild when they are guaranteed a profit for just building a project, whether it is needed or not. Currently, merchant generators are not included in our energy planning or in much oversight by the state regulator.

    The PJM capacity auction is skewed to favor gas-fired units. Nearly 30,000 MW of new gas-fired capacity was planned in PJM by 2027, prior to Covid-19. This created more than a 60% capacity surplus over the previously forecasted demand for 2027. Virginia expects to nearly double its utility generating capacity over the next 20 years, even with relatively stable demand.

    Investors are very wary of future economic conditions. The Chickahominy project is organized as an LLC which can be abandoned at any time with little further exposure to investors. Virginia law requires it to close by 2050 and VNG must collect the full cost of the pipeline within 20 years. None of this is attractive to investors.

    Argan, Inc., the company financing and developing the Chickahominy project has said “we currently cannot predict when construction will commence, if at all.” The company does not even list the Chickahominy plant on its list of backlogged projects.

    • Air Quality
      I see no air quality issue.
      I am not aware of any particulate issue with modern nat gas plants, especially not on local populations due to the flue gas will go up and away.

      The main eco-issue is climate change, because U.S. liberals want to ban all fossil fuels.

      • You might not see it, but health professionals are aware of the effects.

        Workers at Dominion’s newest power plant (Greensville) are constantly cleaning the grounds and equipment to remove the particulate matter that is continually falling out around the plant, according to visitors.

        Most air quality regs were developed for tall stacks and coal plants, assuming large-scale dispersal.

        Heat recovery from the flue gas in combined cycle units reduces the exit velocity and even fine particulates fall out closer to the plant.

        The very-fine particulates are harmful because they can be easily inhaled and cross membranes in the lungs. Health care professionals are becoming more aware of the problem as gas-fired power plants and compressor stations have become much more widespread.

        The EPA hasn’t caught up yet, or is not interested.

    • Tom, I’m not arguing for the project either pro or con. But I see virtually nothing in your comment that suggests a case of environmental injustice. Minorities suffer disproportionately from asthma. Really, that’s it? What if we applied that criteria to everything? Wouldn’t that mean no more cars. No more manufacturing. No more wood fires. No more charcoal grills. No more cigarettes. Why do we selectively rule out gas-fired power plants?

      Natural gas plants emit particulates? Really? Natural gas is a gas! The volume of particulates is tiny. And last time I checked, gas plants had smoke stacks. Whatever infinitesimal level of particulate emissions there are, they don’t land nearby.

      What will the level of particulate emissions be? How far will they travel, and what proportion will settle nearby minority neighborhoods? Is the level even measurable? What is the threshhold level for particulates to trigger an asthma attack?

      • If the air/fuel ratio is off, a “rich” mixture, natural gas will produce soot, carbon particles.

        But only if the air/fuel ratio is off. It should not be for a variety of reasons–it damages equipment, it wastes fuel, and it likely violates EPA regulations.

        This applies to your natural gas furnace as well as a natural gas power plant.

        • True, but you are talking about burning primarily methane or conventional natural gas taken from an underground dome where the gas has risen to the top. That has been mostly used up in the U.S.

          The gas burned in Virginia is mostly coming from hydraulically fractured shale deposits. The gas comes out of the well with materials such as silica or micro-ceramics that are used to hold the cracks open so that the gas will move through the shale. Some small shale particles, drilling mud, residue from some of the toxic materials used in the fracking process, radioactive materials such as radon which naturally occurs in shale beds, and other materials are swept along in the high pressure gas stream in the pipelines and converted to ash during combustion in the power plant or compressor station.

          I have heard reports that shale gas scours the pipeline walls in gas transmission pipelines, a behavior not seen to the same degree with gas from conventional wells.

          I think it is safe to say there is a lot we need to learn about shale gas because there is so little data available. The industry is shielded by regs that do not require analysis or reporting from fracking operations (exemptions from certain water quality standards, for example). I am not presuming an answer. I am only suggesting that we don’t know what has changed from the type of gas we used during the 20th century.

          Although discovered in the 1940s, fracking has only been used at a large scale for 10-12 years.

          • If that is true, is this gas being distributed for domestic use? If so, there is a very real danger that this debris in the gas could clog a gas valve(like the one in your gas furnace), or worse, make it stick open (could result in a fire or explosion). (This is why you are not supposed to use teflon tape on gas connections; bits of teflon tape will cause the same problems).

    • Furthermore, Tom, even with all the give-backs, I think you severely underestimate the budgetary impact on Charles City County. How much revenue will a $1.6 billion project generate? Let’s say the facility pays one-tenth of one percent of the property and machine & tools valuation to the county. That would be $1.6 million. In a poor rural county with few attractive investment prospects and a $22 million total budget, that’s huge!

      I think it would be a case of environmental racism to defeat this project!

      • Jim,

        I think you are missing the point. The law says that energy projects in majority minority communities must have an environmental justice review to avoid the historical practice of disproportionately siting projects in those communities. There is no prohibition to siting a unit there unless the site is considered unsuitable because of the effects on the nearby population. But that can only be determined if such an assessment is made. So far, none has been done.

        The 4th Circuit voided the ACP compressor station permit in Buckingham County, partly because of this omission.

        See my response to TBill on the particulates. I have spoken to numerous physicians over the past five years and they are increasingly concerned for people living close to gas-fueled facilities, including those in Fairfax County which is likely not an EJ community.

        The tax base in capped below $1 billion I believe. Charles City County has removed the machine & tool tax for the power plant. If the pipeline must be paid for within 20 years, the power plant might be depreciated within that same period, greatly reducing a long-term stream of income for the County.

        A tightly knit group appears to profit greatly from development within the county based on information available to just a few. Many of the county residents don’t see the project as a great windfall for them, only a nuisance and a disruption of a community that has existed for generations.

  21. FYI –
    https://www.co.charles-city.va.us/ImageRepository/Document?documentID=229

    intersection of Dom power lines and VNG pipeline…

    has nothing to do with “helping minorities” – and everything to do with a business investment – at this specific location.

  22. Okay. But that also means it is not “environmental racism”. It’s just business.

    • I think that’s the crux of the problem. When folks say “It’s just business.” they fail to take into consideration the impact of that business on those affected. Neighbors WILL be affected. This is a big part of how we’ve reached this point in history and why the anger and frustration have built up over time and are now boiling over. “Magically” the lower income and minority and left behind areas seem to draw these kinds of projects with more frequency than other areas and they don’t share in any benefits. That’s exactly what the folks calling it environmental racism are pointing out. Others can explain it better than I, but we’re being called to listen more and become aware of things that to many have been too long ignored.

    • true – I’m not on that wagon…

  23. Interesting :

    Chesapeake Energy, once a power in natural gas, files for bankruptcy

    Chesapeake Energy, which more than any other company capitalized on the fracking revolution that turned the United States into a leading shale gas producer, filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday.

    McClendon had promoted gas as a replacement for coal and a natural step toward a greener energy culture when technology would allow renewables to take over. But the company’s enthusiastic reliance on hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — has drawn considerable criticism from the environmental movement over the poisoning of water sources and the generation of legions of small earthquakes.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/28/chesapeake-energy-once-power-gas-business-files-bankruptcy/

  24. Good points Larry. I also have written that the fracking boom is over. Gas is just too plentiful and cheap. But we are beating our heads against a wall as so many on this blog do not understand energy economics

  25. Good points Larry. I also have written that the fracking boom is over. Gas is just too plentiful and cheap. But we are beating our heads against a wall as so many on this blog do not understand energy economics

  26. I got some more information about this meeting. There were 27 local residents signed up to speak. If you’ve not done one of these, they go on for hours. It would be surprising if those people could stay all day – especially if they work. They may not have even been able to stay long enough for the meeting to get to their issue. Experts manage meetings to make it hard for citizens. The community priority was placed on speaking to the decision makers. They likely did not have a plan for speaking to press. They were focused on the board.
    Once you have sat through such a meeting – and for citizens, this one was especially frustrating because it was revealed that a June 2 memo had led to the change from the special use permit – which all the speakers expected to talk about – to a “regular” permit. Only a small group, and not the community people, knew. This throws you off your game. Most people do not have experience with these proceedings. Little information is provided and the typical citizen is hesitant to push. Then once the board votes – typically unanimously, the typical citizen feels so disheartened and unheard. It’s hard to explain how much these wear you down.

    There are umpteen meetings associated with approval of projects like this. The average person is unaware of what is required, how things work, how to effectively speak one’s position/concerns. The process definitely favors the companies who have all the resources to bring all the critical players along for their purposes.

    All I can say to you is that you should be concerned whether local people are really involved – but you should not expect them to be in the right place for every opportunity with meetings – or the press. It’s hard to keep up with. For citizens, these battles are not ones we chose. We were stuck with them. We have lives, jobs, and goals of our own. Having to fight one of these battles takes a lot of time, money, willpower, and thick skin. Those who select the sites for these things know this. They know how hard it is for inexperienced citizens to mount an effective defense of themselves and their community and they do everything they can to make it harder.

    Make no mistake. This infrastructure IS an environmental justice issue. Listen to the people who are truly affected. Learn from them/us. Stop assuming you know what is going on. I can assure you that you do not. I will copy and post the community group’s press release next.

  27. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 30, 2020

    CONTACT: Wanda Roberts and La’Veesha Rollins, [email protected]

    Charles City County Residents Outraged by the issuance of Water Permit to Chickahominy Gas Plant

    Water Control Board decision ignores community wishes

    CHARLES CITY COUNTY, VA — Yesterday, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and members of the Water Control Board had a simple choice. Protect the health and wellbeing of Charles City County residents or exploit the lives of Virginians for the sake of polluters’ profits. They unconscionably chose the latter. The DEQ acknowledged in their Memo to the Water Control Board that “A total of 1,199 individuals participated in the joint public comment and public hearing process. Only the applicant and two others provided comments in support of this draft groundwater withdrawal special exception.” The Board noted that a significant portion of the comments came from impacted residents in Charles City County. Despite overwhelming local opposition to this water permit on the grounds of environmental racism, undemocratic process, and concerns about water, health, and climate, the Board chose to follow the DEQ’s recommendation and approve the permit.

    Residents in Charles City County view the DEQ’s hasty permitting process as state sanctioned racism, pointing to a flawed environmental justice review of a majority minority community. Residents like Cynthia Robinson spoke ardently against the permit, saying “I’m a Charles City resident and totally against this special water withdrawal permit. This is a majority black community that is reluctantly becoming a sacrificial county that will be having our water, air, and quality of life disrupted . . . . Enough is enough, time to realize that the black communities don’t want these plants in our back yards.” The gas plant proposed for the Roxbury Road industrial corridor would be only a mile from a second merchant gas plant, C4GT, that the DEQ has permitted, and a couple of miles from a landfill with a history of environmental violations. Residents in Charles City were shut out of the air permitting process for Chickahominy Gas, but in the year since the air permit was issued, they’ve mobilized as the grassroots group C5: Concerned Citizens of Charles City County. Many C5 members spoke out against the permit during the Water Board Hearing yesterday. Rev. Wayne Henley, the Senior Pastor at Cedar Grove Baptist Church and a C5 leader, commented, “I am appalled that the Water Board ignored the environmental justice concerns that were lifted. Board member Tim Hayes stated that the the EJ concerns lifted applied to other parts of the project and not the water permit. The DEQ rep echoed this sentiment. Truth is, it’s all inclusive. The minority community of Charles City County has been hoodwinked and bamboozled by the DEQ staff and the Virginia Water Board based on what’s written in a book and not the reality of what will happen to the water quality in Charles City County.” And Wanda Roberts, a leader in C5, said “The Virginia energy landscape has changed. Fossil Fuel Projects permitted during the last 6 years do not reflect what Virginia has envisioned and implemented for 2020 to 2045. As you know our legislators agree with Dominion Energy when they said ‘Fossil fuel projects are no longer viable.’ Environmental Justice issues have NOT been addressed during any permitting process for the Chickahominy Power Plant. This must be a part of the process.”

    C5 members were particularly outraged that the DEQ forged ahead with a vote on the Chickahominy water permit during a pandemic. Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring, along with 11 other Attorney Generals, has highlighted the impossibility of public participation in environmental regulation, saying “FERC should suspend approval of all new fossil fuel infrastructure-related projects until the pandemic has passed and the public has the ability to engage fully.” Congressman McEachin and Senator McClellan have also expressed concerns about the residents’ safety and ability to participate in the process. This national level policy should also protect the residents of Charles City County from having to redirect their attention away from the public health crisis to a man-made crisis emerging on their doorsteps at the hands of fossil fuel developers. The DEQ’s online process for the hearing was inaccessible to a significant proportion of impacted rural Charles City County residents lacking broadband and cell service. Benita Cotman Lewis said “This hearing is not a fair hearing because of the lack of communication, and the covid pandemic has only added to lack of communication and notification. The world is concentrating on covid 19, as it should be, and not on permitting a gas plant.” Several C5 members pointed out that they needed to take an entire day off of work to participate in a call that inexplicably began an hour later than originally scheduled and was plagued with audio problems. Several commenters, after waiting on the line for several hours to address the board, struggled to get their allotted 3 minutes to speak because of technical difficulties. And after this ongoing effort at engagement, the Water Board voted unanimously to approve the permit, implying that it was a foregone conclusion that they’d do so. As Rev. Henley noted, despite the vocal opposition from county residents, the Water Board and the DEQ “still ignored the concerns of the people. This is a pretty large number [of comments] even in their history. How many comments will make an impression?”

  28. Larry, This plant is being built to sell electricity to whomever buys it. It is not part of the system that is designed to serve Virginia. These folks are building this to sell via PJM to the highest bidder. Dominion is not part of it (although folks seem to think they are supporting it.) It is not required that they have anything to so with Dominion because they are not selling in Dominion’s territory.

  29. Jim B. I reread your review if my book and realize that it is mostly positive. Comparing me to Mother Jones? Bliss!

  30. Larry, you ask:

    Could these plants also function as dispatch partners for Dominion – like the Birchwood Coal Plant near Fredericksburg does/did?

    What keeps Dominion from acquiring or owning them or having them as subsidiaries?

    Private investors don’t want to invest in these plants at this time. The prospects are not good. Demand is down considerably and might not recover to 2019 levels for several years, if at all. PJM is overstuffed with gas-fired capacity. With gas producers going bankrupt, the industry could consolidate, reduce supply and increase gas prices, reducing demand. Renewables are generating electricity at prices lower than new gas-fired units.

    With great competition for capital now, it is just not a good bet.

    Dominion has a surplus of generation, which will grow considerably with its planned wind and solar additions.

    With a capacity surplus, it is doubtful that Dominion could convince the SCC that a new combined cycle unit should be added to the ratebase. Especially after they just told them that building more gas-fired units in Virginia “is no longer viable.”

    Dominion would then probably have to operate the unit as a merchant generator without the guaranteed profit. Dominion Energy sold several of its merchant generating units in other states over the past few years to raise cash and pay down its debts to improve its leverage ratio to be more attractive to investors.

    Dominion does not have control over when its units are dispatched so Chickahominy could not serve as a “dispatch partner.” Chickahominy hopes that its bid prices in the PJM auction will be low enough for it to be dispatched often, but Dominion has no control over that. Chickahominy also expects a good share of its revenue to come from capacity payments, for having a large generating station that can operate whenever needed.

    Dominion has its hands full trying to finance the ACP and the projects the GA has authorized. It will receive a guaranteed stream of income from them. There is no reason for them to seek out investment in a risky proposition compared to the cushy deal they have going now.

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