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More Toxic Gas from ODEC

Power plant
A spokesman for Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) had some curious things to say in an op-ed this week in the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Readers will recall that ODEC is proposing to build a $6 billion coal-fired power plant in Surry County, Va. If built as proposed, the plant would be the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia and, by ODEC’s own accounts, emit millions of pounds of nitrogen oxides (smog-causing chemicals) and carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas), as well as soot, mercury, lead, benzene, and other toxic air pollutants.

Because they are concerned this pollution poses significant risks to human health, the environment, and the economy, numerous local health organizations, environmental groups, nearby localities, and hundreds of local citizens oppose the plant or have expressed serious concern about its likely impacts on the Hampton Roads region.

David Hudgins, ODEC’s director of member and external relations, wrote in the newspaper that such concerns amount to “fear-mongering promulgated by environmental organizations and financed in part by energy competitors who claim, as a Virginian-Pilot editorial did, that coal ‘would pollute the air and water, sicken children and the elderly and worsen air quality problems.’”

Then Hudgins says bluntly, “In fact, there is no science that supports these exaggerated opinions.” IStock_000001627655Large

In fact, there is considerable science that directly supports these precise concerns. Just a few references for Hudgins’ consideration:

• U.S. Environmental Protection Agency publications, Particulate Matter Basic Information; About Air Toxics ; Mercury: Human Health.
• Clean Air Task Force report, The Toll from Coal .
• National Research Council of the National Academies of Science report, Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use .
• Physicians for Social Responsibility report, Coal’s Assault on Human Health.

There are plenty more such references in A Coal Plant’s Drain on Health and Wealth , a Chesapeake Bay Foundation report on the proposed plant.

Just because Hudgins and ODEC choose to ignore what leading medical, environmental, and pollution experts say about coal doesn’t mean the rest of us should.

Hudgins then posed another dubious argument, that environmental protection regulations will put his industry out of business -- presumably intended to frighten readers into believing no coal, no electricity.

Hudgins is most exercised about EPA’s proposed regulations to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, saying they will make it economically impossible to build new coal plants in the United States.

“In this tough economy, the last thing we need to do is shut down an industry that has powered America for centuries, helping it become a world economic powerhouse,” he wrote.

However, studies by respected, impartial (non-industry) economists have shown that environmental regulations have marginal, if any, negative effects on jobs and businesses. More often, health and safety regulations have led to more jobs, more innovation, and a healthier economy. To wit:

• The Economic Impact of Environmental Regulation, MIT Professor Stephen M. Meyer
• Regulation, Employment, and the Economy, Economic Policy Institute
• Regulation: The Unsung Hero in American Innovation, Public Citizen

There are more references in Debunking the “Job Killer” Myth, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Hudgins should read some of the studies and stop his own fear-mongering.

Finally, comes a report this week from Public News Service (PNS) about faith leaders from around the nation gathering in Washington to tell EPA they support the agency’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One was Trieste Lockwood, director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, who according to the PNS report said, “We feel this is a good move in the right direction to protect our air quality for future generations, which is one of the reasons why the faith community is involved.

“It's just really time to take action – carbon pollution causes smog, which triggers a variety of respiratory problems, especially in children and the elderly."

ODEC seems to be on the wrong side of science, economics, and faith. It may want to reconsider.

Chuck Epes
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photos: iStock


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