The debate over plans to meet proposed federal mandates to push renewable energy sources and reduce greenhouse gases is reaching a critical mass.
On Sunday, 50 environmental and left-leaning groups bought a full-page advertisement in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, urging Gov. Terry McAuliffe to bypass Dominion Resources’ stances in meeting the goals of the Clean Power Plan, proposed last summer by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The proposal calls for states to come up with ways to cut carbon dioxide by 30 percent of their 2005 levels by 2030, mostly by increasing renewable energy and shutting down coal-fired plants and reducing reliance upon other fossil-fuel facilities.
The 50 groups say that the utility’s plans to push ahead with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to take natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia would lead to more, rather than less, carbon-dioxide emissions.
“We have to stop kidding ourselves. Virginia should be investing in wind and solar” instead of building fossil fuel infrastructure,” said Glen Besa, head of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, which helped pay for the ad along with such groups as Appalachian Voices, Wild Virginia and Food Not Bombs.
Besa cited a report by Richard Ball, a former federal energy expert and Sierra Club member, saying that the Atlantic pipeline and another called Mountain View eventually would add more carbon into the air than existing coal-fired plants in Virginia.
Dominion has complained that the Clean Power Plan would be costly and ignores the contribution made by nuclear power. Dominion has four reactors in operation and may build a fifth, although its price tag would be more than $19 billion.
Last month, Tom Farrell, head of Dominion, told a large crowd of business people in Richmond that “The Clean Power Plan is the most comprehensive, far-reaching environmental regulation ever issued by the federal government.”
The General Assembly wants to influence the debate. A bill has been introduced in the House of Delegates that would require legislative approval on any Clean Power Plan schemes that the state Department of Environmental Quality might propose.
House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, says the power plan will have a “devastating” effect on the state’s economy.