Proposed Surry coal power plant divides residents

Dendron resident Helen Eggleston plans to sell her home in Dendron if Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s proposal to build a $6-billion coal-fired power plant is approved. (Allison Williams, Daily Press / July 9, 2009)

A proposed coal-fired power plant in Surry County would cause more than $200 million in annual health care costs, a Chesapeake Bay Foundation report says.

Issued Monday, the report examines Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's plan to build a 1,500-megawatt plant, dubbed Cypress Creek Power Station, in Dendron. The site is about 25 miles west of Newport News.

Chris Moore, a scientist at the foundation's Hampton Roads office, said building Cypress Creek would be "irresponsible and counterproductive" toward improving the region's air and water qualities.

The plant's 650-foot smokestacks would spew microscopic pollutants, such as ozone, mercury and carbon dioxide, into Hampton Roads and beyond, the report says.

David Schoengold, an analyst with the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force, estimates plant emissions will annually contribute to 442 asthma attacks, 3,340 lost days of work, 40 heart attacks, and 26 premature deaths.

One-third of those problems would be in Virginia, the rest would be spread among neighboring states, the report says. The total cost would be $208 million annually, according to Schoengold.

The report is the latest salvo in a series of spats between the foundation and Glen Allen-based Old Dominion, which says the plant is needed to meet increasing power demands in Virginia and beyond.

Old Dominion spokesman Bill Sherrod declined to comment Friday pending release of the report. But cooperative officials have said building the plant will create thousands of temporary jobs. Once operational, it will directly employ hundreds, they have said.

First announced in 2008, Old Dominion said last September it would delay building the plant by 18 to 24 months. Cooperative officials cited the shaky economy and uncertainties in the nation's energy policy.

Nevertheless, it continues to seek permits from local, state and federal agencies. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission last month allowed Old Dominion to conduct water-siphoning tests in the James River.

The plant remains subject to a lawsuit filed by Dendron citizens who allege that Old Dominion and town officials did not properly advertise meetings related its construction.

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