Get Energy Smart! NOW!

Blogging for a sustainable energy future.

Get Energy Smart!  NOW! header image 2

Wise and UnWise

August 11th, 2009 · No Comments

Today we have news of a Wise decision when it comes to what should be referred to Dominion Virginia Power’s unWise plan to build a massive new coal-power plant in Wise County, Virginia.

Judge Margaret P. Spencer has determined that

the “escape hatch” in Dominion’s Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) permit [in regards to emissions] rendered that permit unlawful. … The Clean Air Act’s MACT program regulates emissions of hazardous air toxics, such as mercury, which can cause severe neurological deficits in infants, fetuses and young children. Judge Spencer ruled that the “mercury emission limit … must be set ‘irrespective of cost or achievability,’” and that the “escape hatch” was “violative of the laws addressing pre-construction mandates.”

What, in short, does that mean? That the unWise plant is stalled and, well, perhaps heading toward an appeals court but quite possibly heading back to the dust heap (even as Dominion states that it is 20% done). The $billions that would have gone into this plant could be spent far more effectively on implementing energy efficiency programs to reduce the power demands more than that plant would have required and for beginning the development of a renewable energy infrastructure (and economy) in Wise County and its neighbors.

Now, while there was a wise decisions about the unWise plant today, YEAH, there was also a rather unwise announcement elsewhere on the front to turn back the devastation that coal is wrecking upon our nation and the globe.

Today the public learned that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a Clean Water Act permit last week for Consol Energy’s Peg Fork mountaintop removal coal mine in Mingo County, West Virginia. This controversial decision marks the first time during the Obama administration that the Army Corps approved a mine permit to which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had previously objected, opening the door for many new mountaintop removal coal mines in Appalachia. The decision to allow this operation to proceed also demonstrates the Department of Interior’s lack of will to enforce the clear mandates of a critical Surface Mining Act regulation.

“We are disappointed that the administration has approved a new mountaintop removal mine without making any commitment to adopt new regulations or policies that would end this destructive practice,” said Ed Hopkins, Director of Sierra Club’s Environmental Quality Program. “While we appreciate that the Obama administration is taking a harder look at mountaintop removal coal mining, unless that results in decisions that end the irreversible destruction of streams, the harder look isn’t going to do the job.”

The Obama Administration could, with basically a sweep of the pen, set the stage for retiring mountain-top removal, ending this warfare on Appalachia’s topography, and lead to more employment with miners going back into the mines. Instead, “harder look” seems to herald unWise decisions allowing MTR to continue basically unabated.

There is, by the way, another potential unWise decision when it comes to Wise County, as there are permit applications for significant new mountain-top removal projects there.

Ison Rock is the last ridge on Black Mountain in Virginia that hasn’t been totally decimated by mountaintop removal strip mining–and for good reason. Along its flanks lie several communities, home to hundreds of people. Because of this, and the cumulative impact of other strip mines in the area, the EPA took action earlier this year by directing the US Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the federal permit required to create valley fills.

This action attracted national media attention, but was not enough to save this mountain. The mining company now wants to go forward with a revised mining plan, and that application is currently pending before the state agency.

A&G Coal Corp. wants to destroy 1,200+ acres of this mountain that borders several communities and hundreds of homes, putting lives at risk and impairing ecosystems for generations to come. Despite federal action intended to block this proposed mine, we have reason to believe that state agencies still intend to allow Ison Rock Ridge to be destroyed, with only minor changes to the permit.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: Energy