Enviros Hail Proposed Regs for Greensville Plant

Environmental groups are cheering tough new restrictions in the draft air permit for Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed natural gas-fired power plant in Greensville County.

If approved by the state Air Pollution Control Board, the regulations would tighten protective standards for carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, methane, and particulate matter. Dominion also would have to conduct additional testing to prevent formaldehyde pollution and methane leakage.

“The impacts of this decision could ripple through the energy sector,” said Evan Johns, staff attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates in a press release. “By strengthening efficiency requirements, this permit will serve as the new benchmark against which all similar Clean Air Act permits must be measured in the future.”

Appalachian Mountain Advocates, the Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter and Appalachian Voices now are pushing to apply the same standards to the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

Update: When contacted late this morning, Dominion officials said they had just received a copy of the draft and had not had a chance to review it.


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11 responses to “Enviros Hail Proposed Regs for Greensville Plant”

  1. I am a bit puzzled about the headline. Why would only “Enviros” hail a reduction in emissions from power plants? We could all do with less carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, methane, and particulate matter and less formaldehyde pollution and methane leakage.

    Dominion has oversold the benefits of natural gas in solving climate issues and dealing with the CPP. There are advantages over coal to be sure. But they are no magic solution. Particularly with the long-term risk of far higher costs compared to other alternatives.

    This is a leveling of the playing field by putting a price on social costs that have thus far not been priced into the cost of fuel or electricity. It is reducing some of the subsidies related to fossil fuels.

    1. “Why would only “Enviros” hail a reduction in emissions from power plants?”

      I’d say it depends on how much reductions are being achieved, what the benefits are of those reductions, and how much it costs to achieve them. Perhaps the reductions are cost effective. Perhaps they’re not. I don’t know. Hopefully, that information will be made available to the public so we can find out.

      1. The Clean Air Act regulations were supposed to address that tradeoff. As I understand it, the “Enviros” are only asking that Virginia regulators properly enforce the federal law.

        Just as the pipeline monitoring coalition folks are asking Virginia regulators to properly enforce the Clean Water Act requirements and not give Dominion a pass relating to ACP construction that is not available to other applicants.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Bacon knows that… geeze!

  2. TBill Avatar

    Color me puzzled too.
    It should be possible to build natural gas power plants with near zero emissions of pollutants, with the exception of CO2 of course. Sometimes it’s a fight to get corporate managers to accept the need for minimum environmental impact, but technically it can be done.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” Why would only “Enviros” hail a reduction in emissions from power plants? We could all do with less carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, methane, and particulate matter and less formaldehyde pollution and methane leakage.”

    That’s not the way many of the folks on the right see the issue especially if such reductions have anything at all to do with global warming which they regard as a gigantic evil conspiracy …..

    so that’s why such things get depicted as something “enviros” want as if it’s not something ordinary rational people who don’t view the world in terms of global conspiracies, would also want.

    but you gotta wonder what got into DEQ – and whether or not these restrictions are what the EPA is called for or more … The folks over at the SCC and the GOP in the GA must be swearing like sailors!

    I totally agree that gas is a fossil fuel that pollutes – less than coal except for the methane – and the reason why we should be building solar and teaming it with gas so that gas runs when needed to make up for reduced solar – as opposed to viewing solar as a unreliable source of energy.

    it all depends on how one would go about harvesting solar – when available – and then using gas – only when it is needed – to make up the shortfall.

    that way you maximum what you CAN get from solar – and at the same time you minimize the gas that must be burned – a true “conservative” approach.

    It’s totally true that solar is not “dispatch able”. It’s also true that base-load coal and gas is not dispatchable either in that you cannot “turn it on”. Rather you must “keep it on’ in order for it to be “dispatched” and keeping it on means burning fuel – even when the turbines are not spinning – called “standby” and the important point is that “standby” is actively burning fuel and emitting pollution the same way as if turbines were spinning and pushing out power.

    we should be able to use solar – when available – and when not – fire up a peaker plant to make up the difference.

    using gas to run combined cycle baseload plants is little different than coal baseload or nuke baseload – in that all 3 cannot ramp up or down – and basically are either up and burning fuel or not – totally unable to run in tandem mode with solar.

    1. You have it right. Solar is an excellent match because it is usually sunny on the hottest and coldest days (summer and winter peaks). Winter is a bit more challenging because the sun rises later and sets earlier and the winter peak is in the evening, rather than the afternoon summer peak. Gas peakers are a good match to make up the shortfall.

      Much of Dominion’s push for more gas plants is based on a very aggressive forecast for increasing demand (1.5% per year). They are estimating far higher annual demand increases than any other utility in PJM. This does not correspond to moderate Virginia population increases ( about .3% per year) or the decoupling of electric demand from economic performance. Or the contribution from energy efficiency and third-party solar.

      I think this new draft air quality permit came from the Sierra Club, Appalmad, SELC and others threatening legal action if the Clean Air Act was not properly enforced in Virginia. They are also considering bringing in the ACP since the Clean Air Act states that it applies to power plants and “all related facilities”. Dominion might regret unnecessarily connecting the ACP to the Brunswick and Greensville plants. They have not reserved enough capacity from the ACP to serve both of these plants. Their capacity reservation must be for the plant planned in 2022. A bit of sleight of hand to make it appear that a new gas pipeline is needed “immediately” in order to ensure adequate energy supplies for the state.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        MWCOG has noted a substantial increase in the number of teleworkers, days spent teleworking and home-based businesses. That all requires high-speed Internet connections and more electricity consumed at home than if such business activities were not being conducted there. At the same time, an office likely consumes about as much electric power when some workers are not in the office. Could that explain some of the growth forecasted by Dominion?

        1. TMT – I don’t know the percentage of Dominion’s overall load that is provided for data centers. My guess is it is quite small, although I suspect it is one of their fastest growing segments. The data center use alone would not cause Dominion’s forecasted annual demand increase to be 2-3 times higher than other utilities in PJM. Working at home only adds a computer’s usage to the home load, not much of a change. The body heat decline from 20% of an office population telecommuting might lower the building expenses, but it all might balance out in the end.

          Data centers are not terribly well designed to deal with the heat dispersion issue. Some new designs for layout and airflow are in the works, as well as improved heat exchanger capability that could significantly lower the power consumption of data centers.

          I believe it makes more sense to invest in intelligent design right now that permanently lowers energy usage, rather than invest the same amount in building more power plants that will later run at lower capacity when intelligent design becomes more widespread.

          It is companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc. that will accelerate the change in our energy system. They will push for more renewables and more efficient energy usage. Utilities looking only to build more capacity will be caught by surprise when their intended market abandons them. As soon as there is more freedom for third-parties to provide new services directly to these innovative businesses, Dominion’s load will decline.

          Our response in Virginia to date has been to prohibit the new era from arriving here rather than seek the best ways to adapt to it. I would like to see Dominion be healthy in the long run, but they must significantly change their ways to make that so. And they need the help of regulators and policymakers in order to design a better way. The longer we postpone addressing this, the more difficult it will be for Virginians and Dominion.

  4. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    The headline is very misleading. “Enviros cheer?” when you have quoted one attorney with one group? Part of the problem with this blog is that while the nitty gritty of the reporting can be valid, the presentation is vapid, presumes or oversells.

    And, there are serious questions about the viability of new fossil fuel projects. This article from today’s WSJ makes one wonder if there is really a market fo rthe two controversial pipeline projects:


    1. Natural gas extraction from shale deposits is going the same way as for oil. Cheap loans and high gas prices spurred the shale gas boom. Now drillers continue to produce below their cost so they can pay their debts and last long enough until the price goes up.

      We are likely at the low point for natural gas prices (under $2 mcf in some locations). This has brought forth pipeline developers by the bucket load trying to make a buck from the current surplus of natural gas. Having enough pipelines to move all of the gas in the Marcellus to market will occur in 2017 (well before the ACP might be in operation). This will increase the price as discounts (as with Dominion South hub) will no longer be necessary in order to find a market.

      Industry estimates show that if all of the proposed pipelines are built, we will have 40% more pipeline capacity than is necessary to remove all of the Marcellus production. Australia has already traveled the road the U.S. is embarking upon. After they transformed their coal-fired industries to use natural gas and began exporting LNG, their domestic natural gas prices increased 300-400%. In their 2016 IRP, Dominion assessed the risk of overbuilding natural gas infrastructure when the price of gas went from their base of $3 to as high as $7 mcf. They neglected to consider a possible scenario in the $10-$12 range. High gas prices will most certainly diminish the demand for natural gas. Their counter was if gas gets too expensive, they would build a $20+ billion nuclear plant instead. How about that for protecting customer rates!

      In the meantime, Transco has producers of Marcellus gas looking for customers. They have available existing pipeline capacity at least 4-5 times greater than the ACP and are willing to move it as far south as Alabama to find customers. FERC says OK – your customers (the gas producers) say you need to do this so they approve it along with a pipeline in PA that adds 1.7 Bcf/d of additional capacity. Along comes the ACP (1.5 Bcf/d) that says to FERC “our (captive) customers need gas and we want to make money by building them a pipeline”. In most reasonable situations the regulator (FERC) would say “ACP customers meet the Transco gas suppliers. They have much more capacity than you need, a pipeline already in the ground and it will be cheaper for you to transport the gas.” Instead, FERC says “we have never met a pipeline we didn’t like; who cares if it’s not necessary; we are supposed to develop natural gas infrastructure.”

      If this makes sense, please help me understand it, because I can’t fathom it, no matter how grandly the utility press releases are spun.

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