Victory! Plans for Virginia Coal-Fired Power Plant Scrapped

Where the Cypress Creek Power Plant Would Have Been Built
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National Park Lovers Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief

We did it! NPCA supporters and thousands of others convinced Old Dominion Electric Company (ODEC) to suspend their plans to build a 1,500 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Surry County, Virginia!  With your help, NPCA has been fighting this plant for several years. As designed, the Cypress Creek power plant would have been three times larger than the average coal-fired power plant currently in operation. The plant would have emitted 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, over 3,600 tons of sulfur dioxide, 44 pounds of mercury, 1,000 pounds of lead, and many other pollutants into the air.  This pollution would increase asthma and heart-related illness in Virginia while contributing to hazy skies over our national parks and mercury in park headwaters.  Throughout the process, ODEC could not show that demand even existed in Virginia for a coal plant of this magnitude.  

More than 9,000 comments were submitted against the plant and many town and city councils passed resolutions against it. In August 2012, ODEC asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cease the permitting process necessary for the proposed Cypress Creek plant to proceed. NPCA is heartened by this news but will remain vigilant, as ODEC still owns the land and could decide to revive this plant in the future. Thank you for working alongside us to protect clean air, pristine water, and all the treasures of our national parks for our children and grandchildren.

Why is protecting air quality in Virginia’s national parks important?

The pollution threatens protected historic sites such as Petersburg and Richmond National Battlefields, and contributes to unhealthy air many days of the year at Colonial National Historical Park, each established to honor and remember our nation’s heritage.  Air pollution harms local streams and the Chesapeake Bay.  The pollutants have significant impacts locally, and also can travel on the wind for many miles, thereby affecting a large ecological area. Power plant pollution contributes to smoggy haze that reduces scenic views, and the enjoyment of hikers or anyone active outdoors, as well as threatening human health, plants, and animals. Virginia’s tourism and agricultural economies depend on clean air.

What was the threat?

The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) proposed a large coal-fired power plant in Dendron, Virginia, in Surry County. Designed to run on two boilers using coal and wood waste as fuel, Cypress Creek would have been a 1,500-megawatt industrial source of air and water pollution. By stopping this plant in its tracks, we've stopped these estimated emissions from entering the atmosphere each year:

  • 3,000 tons of nitrogen oxides
  • 2,100+ tons of particulate matter
  • 3,600+ tons of sulfur dioxide
  • 44 pounds of mercury
  • 1,000 pounds of lead
  • 12 million tons of carbon dioxide

Does Virginia need a new coal plant?

Renewable energy sources, increased energy efficiency, and conservation offer alternatives to building new coal burning power plants. Unfortunately, as long as utility profits depend on how much electricity they sell, instead of on providing electric services, utilities may reduce their profits if their customers use electricity more efficiently. 

ODEC did not have a robust energy efficiency program in place to enable its customers to use less electricity. One of ODEC’s justifications for building the plant is that Virginia needs the additional energy sources, but ODEC has not demonstrated the need. Even during the record-breaking temperatures during the summer of 2010, there were no concerns about supply.

In 2008, visitors to national parks in the region such as Colonial National Historical Park, generated approximately $51 million in economic activity such as meals in restaurants, hotel stays, and retail sales.

Why is NPCA involved?

Air pollution is one of the most pervasive threats facing national parks in Virginia and across the county. Congress established laws to ensure that the air quality in national parks, like Shenandoah, would be clean, and protected for public enjoyment and benefit. For decades, NPCA has advocated to improve national park air quality by contesting coal plants that would harm national parks and people’s health, as well as advocating for robust enforcement of Clean Air Act protections. In so doing, NPCA aims to protect and restore park air quality for our children and grandchildren.

What more can you do to make a difference?

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