Category Archives: Coal and Water

Items on the various connections between water resources and the mining and use of coal.

Elkins Branch Landslide Mining Reclamation Project in Buchanan County, Va., Receives $400,000 Grant in June 2016

On June 3, 2016, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) announced that is will receive a $400,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to help stabilize a surface-mining-related landslide in the Elkins Branch area of Buchanan County.  The approximately 15-acre slide area resulting from mining prior to 1977, prior to passage of the federal Surface Mining and Reclamation Act.  This resulted in the area becoming an “abandoned mine land” (AML) area.  DMME states that the total Elkins Branch reclamation project—including the stabilization, removing the displaced slide material (which is partially blocking Elkins Branch), installing erosion and sediment controls, and revegetating the area—is expected to cost about $2 million and will be one of the largest ever undertaken during the 38 years of Virginia’s AML reclamation program.

Sources:
State grant to aid in landslide cleanup, Bristol Herald Courier, 6/5/16.

“Water Quality Improvement Grant to help Stabilize Dangerous Landslide in Buchanan County caused by Historic Coal Mining,” Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy News Release, 6/3/16, online (as PDF) at https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMME/pdf/news%20releases/2016Releases/ElkinsBranchGrant20160510.pdf.

“Public Notice of Intent to Enter to Conduct Reclamation Activities (Abandoned Mine Land Program) in the Matter of: Elkins Branch Landslide Project,” Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy Public Notice, 7/16/15, online (as PDF) at https://www.dmme.virginia.gov/DMLR/AML/ElkinsBranch-NoticeofIntent.pdf.

Virginia Tech Plans by 2020 to Replace Coal with Natural Gas for Blacksburg Campus Steam Heat and Electricity Co-generation

Lower natural gas prices and a carbon-emissions-reduction goal were the reasons cited when Virginia Tech announced in mid-June 2016 that it plans by 2020 to stop burning coal for steam heat and electricity at its main campus in Blacksburg, instead burning only natural gas.  Currently the university uses both fuels.  After 2020, coal would continue as a “backup fuel for the foreseeable future,” according to Laura Neff-Henderson of Tech’s University Relations Division.  Ms. Neff-Henderson stated that the conversion to natural gas only is expected to save about $1 million annually from an annual cost currently of between $6 million and $7 million.  The conversion is also part of the university’s efforts to reduce its carbon emissions by 2050 to 80 percent of the levels emitted in 1990, a goal set in a climate action plan that the university approved in 2009 and reaffirmed in 2013 (more information about that plan is available online at http://facilities.vt.edu/sustainability/climate-action-commitment.html).

Source: Virginia Tech plans greater use of natural gas, Roanoke Times, 6/19/16.

Carbon Capture and Storage at Coal-fired Boundary Dam Power Station in Canada Reviewed in Mar. 29, 2016, New York Times Article

Technology to Make Clean Energy From Coal Is Stumbling in Practice,” by Ian Austen in The New York Times, 3/29/16, reports on the progress and setbacks so far of implementing carbon capture and storage at the Boundary Dam Power Station in Saskatchewan, Canada.  Owned by SaskPower, the Boundary Dam station was the first commercial-scale attempt at carbon capture and storage when the station opened in 2014, according to the Times article.

Information from SaskPower on the Boundary Dam carbon capture project is available online at http://www.saskpower.com/our-power-future/innovating-today-to-power-tomorrow/capturing-carbon-and-the-worlds-attention/.

Closure of Coal Ash Ponds at Dominion and APCO Power Stations in Virginia; State Water Control Board on Jan. 14, 2016, Approves Dominion Proposal for Drainage into Quantico Creek and James River; Board Decision Challenged in Court; Two Settlements Announced in Early March 2016; Maryland Drops Appeal of Permit in June 2016; Draft Wastewater Permit for Chesterfield Power Station Published in June 2016, with Public Hearing to be held July 6, 2016; Lawsuit Over Chesapeake Energy Center to Trial June 21-24, 2016, with Decision Expected within Weeks; APCO Clinch River Station Plans Discussed in Public Meeting in April 2016

For a related Water Central News Grouper post, please see Coal Ash Storage Regulation Published by U.S. EPA in Federal Register on Apr. 17, 2015; Dominion to Close Ash Ponds at Four Virginia Power Stations Within Three Years, posted 4/22/15.

DOMINION POWER STATIONS DEVELOPMENTS

In 2015-16, considerable debate and controversy resulted from Dominion Virginia Power’s plans for handling coal ash and wastewater as part of a mandated closing of coal-ash ponds at several electric-power stations.  The closure plans involved ash-storage ponds at Dominion’s 11 coal ash ponds at Possum Point, Bremo Bluff, the Chesterfield Power Station in Chesterfield County, and the Chesapeake Energy Center in the City of Chesapeake.  According to the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice for a November 18, 2015, Va. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) public meeting on Dominion’s closure plans (online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=23654), the closure of the coal ash ponds is “pursuant to a 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final Rule that regulates the disposal of coal-combustion residuals.”  EPA information on the coal-ash regulation, which was published in the Federal Register on April 17, 2015, is available online at http://www2.epa.gov/coalash/coal-ash-rule.

On the day that the regulation was published, Dominion announced that it would comply with the new regulation by closing—within three years—coal-ash ponds at the four Virginia electric-power stations.

Bremo Bluff and Possum Point station developments: Dominion’s application for permits to discharge coal-ash pond water from the Possum Point Power Station into Quantico Creek in Prince William County, and from the Bremo Bluff Power Station into the James River in Fluvanna County, was approved by the Virginia State Water Control Board (SWCB) on January 14, 2016.  The proposed action had generated a large number of public comments, and a number of opposing citizens or groups were present at the Jan. 14 SWCB meeting.  On February 1, 2016, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) announced that, acting on behalf of the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, it would challenge in Richmond Circuit Court the SWCB decision on Quantico Creek.  On February 10, 2016, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted to join the legal challenge to the planned discharge into Quantico Creek, and in mid-February Maryland Gov. Lawrence Hogan notified Virginia that Maryland also intends to appeal the permit for discharge into Quantico Creek.  Also on February 10, the James River Association announced that it intended to challenge the agency decision in court over the planned discharge into the James River.  On March 8, Prince William County announced a settlement with Dominion, but the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Potomac RiverKeeper, and Maryland Secretary for the Environment Ben Grumbles both said that they intend at this point to continue litigation over the Possum Point Station permit.  On March 9, Dominion and the James River Association announced a settlement over the permit for wastewater discharge into the James from the Bremo Bluff Station.  Both settlements included pledges by Dominion to treat the wastewater from the coal ash lagoons to a higher degree than is required by the Virginia permits approved in January 2016.  On June 16, 2016, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office announced that the Maryland Department of the Environment was dropping its appeal of the permit Virginia issued in January 2016 for discharge into Quantico Creek.

Developments at Chesterfield Power Station: On June 6, 2016, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a draft permit for wastewater discharge associated with management of coal ash at Dominion’s Chesterfield Power Station on the James River in Chesterfield County.  The agency is accepting public comments through July 21, 2016, and is holding public hearings on the draft wastewater-discharge and solid-waste permits in July.  The SWCB is scheduled to consider the draft permit at its quarterly meeting in September 2106.  Sources:   At Chesterfield coal ash hearing [on July 6, 2016], speakers call for stricter permit limits, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/6/16.  ‘Is everybody else wrong?’ In other states, coal ash being excavated to protect waterways, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/2/16.  DEQ issues draft permit for coal ash water drainage in Chesterfield, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/6/16.

Developments at Chesapeake Energy Station: On November 6, 2015, U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson denied Dominion’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed in March 2015 in U.S. District Court by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Sierra Club, alleging that coal-ash ponds at Dominion’s closed power station at the Chesapeake Energy Center are contaminating groundwater connected to the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River.  The trial began in Richmond on June 21, 2016, and ended on June 24, with presiding U.S. District Judge John Gibney, Jr., expected to issue a decision within a few weeks; post-trial briefs are due by the end of July, according to July 2, 2016, Richmond Times-Dispatch article.  That article also noted that one of the questions being considered by Judge Gibney is an interpretation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by the U.S. EPA that apparently disagrees with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s opinion that arsenic from the site reaching groundwater and ultimately the Elizabeth River is not a CWA violation.  Meanwhile, the DEQ held a public hearing on July 7, 2016, on a draft Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit for release of industrial wastewater and stormwater from coal ash storage ponds at the Chesapeake station.  Sources: “Final Rule: Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities,” U.S. EPA, 4/17/15, online at http://www2.epa.gov/coalash/coal-ash-rule; Dominion Virginia Power to close coal ash ponds in state, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/17/15.  Suit against Dominion over closed Chesapeake power plant can proceed, judge says, Virginian-Pilot, 11/9/15.  Federal coal ash lawsuit begins in Richmond today, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/21/16.  Suit over Chesapeake coal ash goes to trial Tuesday, Virginian-Pilot, 6/20/16.  Coal ash lawsuit could hinge on linking Elizabeth River arsenic to closed coal plant, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/21/16.  Arsenic levels near shuttered Chesapeake coal ash plant are focus of trial’s first day, Virginian-Pilot, 6/21/16.  Coal ash case opens; Sierra Club says move pollutants away from water, [Newport News] Daily Press, 6/21/16.  Threats from Chesapeake coal ash will rise with the sea, witness says on second day of trial, Virginian-Pilot, 6/22/16.  Dominion, Sierra Club go to court in Chesapeake coal ash contamination case, Utility Dive, 6/22/16.  Federal judge takes coal ash verdict under advisement, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/24/16.  As trial over coal ash lawsuit wanes, judge says potential cost of removing the ash worries him, Virginian-Pilot, 6/24/16.  Environmentalists, utilities eye Richmond coal ash trial, Associated Press, as published by Omaha World-Herald, 7/12/16.  Dominion coal ash suit could have nationwide disposal consequences, Utility Dive, 7/14/16.

For more information from the DEQ on the permit process for Dominion’s closure plans, contact the following Va. DEQ staff members:
For water permitting – Susan Mackert, 13901 Crown Court, Woodbridge, VA 22193, phone: (703) 583-3853, e-mail: susan.mackert@deq.virginia.gov;
For solid waste permitting – Justin Williams, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, Virginia 23218, phone: (804) 698-4185, e-mail: justin.williams@deq.virginia.gov.

AEP/APCO POWER STATIONS DEVELOPMENTS

Meanwhile, Appalachian Power Company (APCO, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, or AEP) was under the same EPA mandate regarding ash-storage ponds at its facilities.   According to the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall notice (online at http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/ViewMeeting.cfm?MeetingID=24385) for an April 20, 2016, DEQ public meeting on APCO’s Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permit re-issuance application for the Clinch River Plant in Russell County [near Carbo], the “proposed permit also will address wastewater discharges that result from the closure of coal ash management ponds.  The closure of these ponds was necessitated by the recent conversion of the plant to use natural gas as a fuel, and by final coal ash regulations that were approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2015.  The proposed permit covers the removal of treated water from the ponds to ensure that the water quality and aquatic resources of the river are protected.”  According to a May 4, 2016, Bristol Herald Courier report, the DEQ published a proposed draft permit on April 1, 2016, and was accepting public comments on the draft until May 19.  The State Water Control board is expected to decide on the proposed permit at its meeting on June 27-28, 2016.  The draft permit calls for APCO to remove 4.3 million gallons of wastewater from the 28-acre coal ash pond over about 24 days.  The wastewater is to be treated to remove toxic metals and then discharged into the Clinch River.

ONGOING HEADLINES LIST FOR APCO AND DOMINION DEVELOPMENTS

Following are ongoing lists of news item headlines (hyperlinked) regarding developments with APCO’s plans; followed by items regarding developments regarding Dominion’s plans; items are listed from newest to oldest.  These items are in addition to ones listed above as sources for summaries of developments.  All hyperlinks were function at the time they were added to this post, but they may not be functional at later dates.

APCO-related new items (list started 4/12/16)

Locals discuss dangers of coal ash water removal into Clinch River, Bristol Herald Courier, 5/4/16 [report on April 20, 2016, Va. Department of Environmental Quality public meeting in Lebanon, Va. (Russell County) on the proposed permit for APCO for discharging treated coal-ash wastewater from the Clinch River Plant].

Public expresses concerns at [April 20, 2016] DEQ meeting on coal ash water removal into Clinch River, Bristol Herald Courier, 4/21/16

Virginia DEQ to address public concerns at [April 20, 2016] meeting on coal ash removal from Clinch River plant, Bristol Herald Courier, 4/16/16.

Public meeting scheduled on removal of coal ash wastewater from Clinch River power plant, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 4/12/16.

DOMINION-related news items (list started 11/24/15)

Health concerns around Dominion flyash permit, Village News [Chester, Va.], 7/13/16

Speakers at Chesapeake hearing assail Dominion’s coal-ash storage plan, Virginian-Pilot, 7/7/16.

A solution for coal ash?, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/6/16 [editorial mentioning process investigated by researchers at North Carolina A&T of mixing coal ash with polyurethane, making the ash usable in various products].

‘Is everybody else wrong?’ In other states, coal ash being excavated to protect waterways, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/2/16.

Dumfries effort to urge removal of Possum Point coal ash fails, Potomac Local, 6/23/16 [vote by Dumfries Town Council on June 21, 2016, not to send a resolution to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality demanding that Dominion remove coal ash from the Possum Point Power Station, rather than capping the material onsite].

Environmental group digs into Dominion’s coal ash, Chesterfield Observer, 6/22/16 [regarding water-quality monitoring in the James River near Dominion’s Chesterfield Power Station].

[Commentary]: Closing out coal at the Chesapeake Energy Center, Virginian-Pilot, 6/19/16 [statement by Pamela Faggert, the chief environmental officer and senior vice president of sustainability for Dominion Virginia Power, regarding Dominion’s plans for removing coal ash from the Chesapeake Energy Center, located on the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake, Va.].

Dominion assures draining of ash ponds will protect local waters, Bay Journal, 6/16/16 [long, detailed article on issues around permits for Dominion’s Possum Point and Bremo Bluff facilities].

Maryland Drops Coal Ash Appeal, Bacon’s Rebellion, 6/17/16; Maryland drops appeal of permit issued for Dominion coal-ash facility, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/16/16; and  Maryland quits fight against Dominion plan to dump coal-ash water into Potomac, Washington Post, 6/16/16 [all regarding the June 16, 2016, announcement by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office that the state was dropping its appeal of the permit issued by Virginia in January 2016 for discharge of coal ash wastewater from the Possum Point station into Quantico Creek (Prince William County), a Potomac River tributary].

Dominion reveals coal ash stored at Chesapeake is 3 times previous estimate, Utility Dive, 6/10/16; and Dominion’s coal ash stockpile in Chesapeake is more than three times previous estimate, Virginian-Pilot, 6/8/16 [In the lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club in March 2015 over alleged leaking of contaminants into the Elizabeth River from coal-storage ponds at the Chesapeake Energy Center, a document provided by Dominion in June 2016 indicated that over 3 million tons of coal ash are currently stored at the facility, rather than previously reported 1 million tons; the case is in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.  See also Sierra Club lawsuit over coal ash in Chesapeake moves forward, WAVY TV-Hampton Roads, 6/8/16 [case to court on 6/21/16; and Environmental groups sue Dominion Virginia for coal ash leaks, Utility Dive, 3/24/15].

Duke Univ. tests find leaching from coal ash sites, including 2 in Va., Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/10/16.  Excerpt: “Coal ash ponds at Dominion Virginia Power stations in Bremo Bluff and Chesterfield County are among 21 facilities in five states [Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia] leaching contaminants into surrounding water, in some cases in excess of federal standards for drinking water and aquatic life, according to a report by Duke University scientists published Friday [6/10/16] in [Environmental Science and Technology, published by the American Chemical Society].”  Duke Study Documents Coal Ash Leakage into Groundwater, Bacon’s Rebellion, 6/13/16 [this item includes a link to the study].

Water-safety testing levels at heart of coal ash dispute, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/8/16 [regarding findings of hexavalent chromium in wells near the Possum Point and Bremo Bluff power stations’ coal-ash storage facilities; the article discusses the levels detected in this and other instances, compared to regulatory levels].

What’s In Your Water?, Prince William Times, 6/8/16 [regarding well tests near the Possum Point Power Station coal-ash storage ponds].

Dominion Virginia Power Says River Protections Are Working, WCVE Richmond, 6/8/16 [40 second audio].

DEQ issues draft permit for coal ash water drainage in Chesterfield, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/6/16.

Dominion wants to permanently store a million tons of coal ash in Chesapeake. Can it be done safely?, Virginian-Pilot, 6/3/16.

Meeting with Dominion “positive,” citizens say, Chesterfield Observer, 5/25/16 [citizen tour on May 19, 2916, of Dominion’s Dutch Gap Power Station in Chesterfield County].

Protesters speak up at the Dominion RiverRock Festival, WRIC TV – Richmond, 5/21/16.

Tests of private wells on Possum Point turn up toxins, Inside NoVa, 5/25/16.  Prince William to continue testing wells near coal ash ponds, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/20/16.  Next Front in the Coal Ash War: Groundwater Testing, Bacon’s Rebellion, 5/16/16.  Closing of coal ash ponds leaves residents worried about wells, WTOP Washington, 5/16/16.  As ash pond closures progress, concern mounts over well water, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/15/16 [regarding tests of six private wells on the Possum Point peninsula where Dominions’ Possum Point Power Station and coal-ash storage ponds are located].

Duke University takes samples in Fluvanna, Chesterfield for coal ash test, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/17/16.

Dominion set to begin releasing coal-ash water into Quantico Creek, Inside NoVa [Leesburg, Va.], 5/9/16.  [This article provides details on the treatment process Dominion will use.]

Draining of Northern Virginia coal ash lagoon to begin; Dominion Virginia Power notified state it plans to begin discharging into Potomac tributary on Monday [May 9, 2016], Bay Journal, 5/3/16.

Dominion releases test results from water at Bremo Power Station, Charlottesville Newsplex, 5/3/16.

Coal ash water treatment process “unprecedented”, Potomac Local, 5/3/16.

Bremo Power Plant opens doors to show water treatment facility, Charlottesville Newsplex, 4/27/16

Once in Four Lifetimes, Bacon’s Rebellion, 4/19/16.  [This article includes details on the permitting process and assumptions used by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality when assessing proposed permits for discharges of wastewater from coal-ash storage ponds.]

Dominion begins releasing coal ash wastewater into James River, WTVR TV-Richmond, 4/27/16; Protesters hold funeral for the James River, Newsplex, 4/27/16; Dominion Virginia Power begins discharging treated coal ash water into James River, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/27/16; and Treated Coal Ash Water Flows Today, Bacon’s Rebellion, 4/27/16 [all regarding the April 27, 2016, start of discharging coal-ash wastewater into the James River from Dominion’s Bremo Power Station in Fluvanna County].

Coal Ash Mishmash, Bacon’s Rebellion, 4/7/16.  [This article includes a map showing locations of Dominion Virginia Power’s coal-ash storage facilities.  Excerpt: “Dominion Virginia Power has settled disagreements with two foes over its plans to discharge coal ash wastewater from its Possum Point and Bremo power stations into Virginia’s rivers and streams, but the battle over coal ash disposal isn’t going away.  Not only are the state of Maryland and the Potomac Riverkeeper Network appealing the wastewater-discharge permit for Possum Point, but Dominion still must acquire solid-waste permits for both plants.  Also, within the next year or so, Dominion will file permit applications for its legacy coal ash ponds at Chesterfield Power Station, while Appalachian Power Co. plans to close and cap an ash pond at its Clinch River Power Station.  Determined to hold the power companies to the strictest standards possible, environmentalists have vowed to scrutinize each permit.”]
Chesterfield Power Station expected to burn coal for the foreseeable future, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/26/16.

DEQ host reconvened meeting about coal ash permits in Chesterfield, [Virginia Commonwealth University] Commonwealth Times, 3/22/16.

Editorial: It’s heartening that Dominion has reached deal with environmentalists over coal ash, [Newport News] Daily Press, 3/22/16.  [Like all editorials, this one has a particular point of view, but it provides a good, short introduction to the Dominion coal ash situation and recent events, as of mid-March 2016.]

After months of debate, board approves controversial landfill, Chesterfield Observer, 3/16/16 [Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors vote in March 2016 to approve landfill proposed by Dominion for coal ash at the Chesterfield Power Station].

Activists are teed off at Dominion’s gift to environmental official, Capital News Service, as published by WRIC TV Richmond, 3/23/16; Environmental official received gifts from Dominion, Capital News Service, as published by WRIC TV Richmond, 3/15/16; Chief of Virginia DEQ Attended Master’s Tournament on Dominion’s Dime, Style Weekly [Richmond], 3/15/16 [regarding payment of $2300 by Dominion Virginia Power for David Paylor to attend the tournament in Augusta, Ga., in April 2013].

Has Dominion’s Political Power Clouded The Fight Over Coal Ash?, WAMU Radio Washington, D.C., 3/14/16 – long article plus a 6 min./56 sec audio focusing particularly on perceptions of Dominion Virginia Power’s political influence in Virginia and on the role of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in the permits for Dominion at the Possum Point and Bremo Bluff stations.  See also follow-up audio, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on Coal Ash Permit Process, 3/22/16, 5 min./34 sec.

Riverkeepers, Dominion Spar Over Year-Old Release of Coal Ash Water, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/25/16; Dumfries calls for coal ash probe, Inside NoVa, 3/23/16; and Virginia town asks EPA to investigate coal-ash lagoon draining, Bay Journal, 3/11/16.  [The Prince William County, Va., Town of Dumfries Council voted in early March to ask the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a criminal investigation into whether the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Dominion Virginia Power broke the law in allowing discharge of about 30 million gallons of wastewater into Quantico Creek in 2015 from the Possum Point Station, which is located near Dumfries.]

Outcry Prompts Dominion to Make Coal Ash Wastewater Cleaner, InsideClimate News, 3/10/16.

DEQ statement on settlement of lawsuits over coal ash discharge permits, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 3/10/16 [brief statement regarding both settlements announced on March 8 and March 9].

Virginia approves Dominion’s controversial coal ash landfill, Waste Dive, 3/17/16.

Possum Point Pact Reached, Prince William Times, 3/17/16.

Dominion Alters Plan to Discharge Coal Ash Water, Fluvanna Review, 3/15/16.

Dominion, James River Association agree to wastewater discharge plan, NBC12 Richmond, 3/9/16; Two groups settle appeals of Dominion’s coal-ash lagoon discharges, Bay Journal, 3/9/16; Dominion, James River Association Reach Understanding on Coal Ash, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/9/16; Dominion and James River Association settle on plan for discharging treated coal ash wastewater, Virginia Business, 3/9/16 [on the settlement announced 3/9/16, between Dominion and the James River Association of the latter group’s challenge to the permit for discharging wastewater into the James River from the Bremo Bluff station].

Dominion Still Facing Opposition on Possum Point Coal Ash Plan, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/10/16.

Md.’s environment secretary: Fight against Dominion’s coal-ash plan will continue, Washington Post, 3/9/16; Prince William supervisors settle with Dominion over coal-ash ponds, Inside NoVa, 3/8/16; Dominion [and] Prince William reach deal over Possum Point, Potomac Local, 3/8/16 [on the settlement announced 3/9/16 between Dominion and the Prince William County Board of Supervisors over the latter’s challenge to the permit for discharging wastewater into the Quantico Creek from the Possum Point station].

Angry over coal-ash water release, student activists occupy lobby of Va. regulator, Washington Post, 3/7/16

Governor McAuliffe supports Dominion’s wastewater plans, Style Weekly, 3/8/16

Water removal at Dominion coal ash ponds set to begin next month, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/8/16

17 coal ash protesters cited in DEQ lobby sit-in, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/7/16

Dominion coal ash wastewater debate centers on treatment, Associated Press, as published by Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3/4/16.

As board weighs coal ash permit, citizens fight back, Chesterfield Observer, 3/2/16 [regarding coal ash at Chesterfield Power Station on the James River].

Q&A: What You Need to Know About Dominion’s Wastewater Plans for the James River, Style Weekly, 3/1/16.

Drinkable Water for Humans—or Fish?, Bacon’s Rebellion, 3/1/16 [an analysis of arguments made by parties appealing the SWCB’s approval of permits for Dominion to discharge treated water from the coal ash ponds into Quantico Creek and the James River].

River protection group challenges coal ash water discharge, Associated Press, as published by WTOP-Radio Washington, 2/27/16; and Group Challenging Decision to Allow Coal Waste in Va. Rivers, WVIR-TV Charlottesville, 2/26/16.

Virginia allows Dominion to exceed toxic limits for James River dumping, WWBT-TV Richmond, 2/25/16.

Dominion concedes, won’t import out-of-town coal ash, Chesterfield Observer, 2/24/16 [regarding application by Dominion to build a coal-ash landfill at its Chesterfield Power Station].

Maryland seeks review of Virginia decision on pollutants that could affect Potomac, Legal Newsline, 2/18/16.  Maryland challenges Dominion’s coal ash water disposal plan in Virginia, UtilityDive, 2/17/16.

Local group taps renowned professor in coal ash fight, Chesterfield Observer, 2/17/16.  [Dr. Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor whose work helped reveal lead in drinking water in Flint, Michigan, will help a Chesterfield Couny, Va., environmental group Hands Across the Lake assess lead levels in water collected from private property near Dominion Virginia Power’s Dutch Gap power plant.]

Oyster farmers hope to stop Dominion’s coal ash plan, WUSA-TV Washington, 2/17/16.

Maryland challenges Virginia on coal ash pond draining, Bay Journal, 2/16/16.

Maryland to fight Dominion plan to release coal-ash water into Va. creek, Washington Post, 2/15/16.

How Clean Is Clean Enough?, Bacon’s Rebellion, 2/12/16.

James River Association challenging Dominion Virginia Power coal ash permit, Associated Press, as published by Charlottesville Daily Progress, 2/11/16.

Environmental Group [James River Association] Challenges Discharge into James, Fluvanna Review, 2/11/16.

Battle rages on over treated coal plant water in waterways, WTOP Radio-Washington, 2/11/16.

Couple living near Bremo power plant speaks out about ash ponds, Newsplex, 2/11/16.

Permitted release of coal ash surface water continues at Possum Point, Potomac Local, 2/10/16.

Groups appeal Virginia coal ash pond draining, Bay Journal, 2/10/16 [Prince William County and the James River Association].

Report: Dominion dumped 33.7 million gallons of untreated coal ash water in Quantico Creek, Utility Dive, 2/10/16

Fluvanna Board of Supervisors host community meeting [on 2/10/16] about ash ponds [at Bremo Bluff], Newsplex, 2/11/16.

James River Association challenging Dominion Virginia Power coal ash permit, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/10/16.

Prince William to sue state over coal-ash permit, Inside NoVa, 2/10/16 [the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Feb. 9 to appeal the SWCB decision].

Dominion released millions of gallons of coal-ash water, Inside NoVa, 2/8/16 [Virginia Dominion Power released 33.7 million gallons of untreated coal-ash water into Quantico Creek in spring 2015].

Community Meeting [on Feb. 6, 2016, in Fluvanna County, Va.] on Bremo Coal Ash Pond Dewatering Project, Newsplex, 2/5/16.

Dominion Prepares to Shut Down Coal Ash Ponds, Newsplex, 2/2/16.

Dominion under fire for coal ash disposal in county, state, Chesterfield Observer, 2/3/16.

Dominion coal ash plan to be challenged in court, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/2/16.

Court fight looms over Dominion plan to flush coal ash water, Inside NoVa, 2/1/16.

River-protection group legally challenging wastewater vote, Associated Press, as published by WTOP-Radio-Washington, 2/1/16.

Possum Point Power Station: [Prince William County, Va.] Board budgets for appeal, Prince William Times, 1/29/16.

Prince William hiring lawyer to fight Dominion coal-ash plan, Inside NoVa, 1/21/16 [regarding plan to discharge coal-ash pond water from Possum Point Station into Quantico Creek].

“Months not weeks” before Dominion drains coal ash ponds, and lawsuits likely, Bay Journal, 1/21/16 [“environmental groups and agencies that opposed the two permits granted by the State Water Control Board are planning to appeal within 30 days”].

Groups Opposing Decision Allowing Dominion to Dump Coal Ash, WVIR TV Charlottesville, 1/15/16.

State Board Gives Dominion OK to Drain Coal Ash Ponds into James [and] Potomac Rivers, Capital News Service, as published by Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, 1/17/16.

Va. board OKs permits for dewatering Va. Power’s coal ash ponds, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 1/14/16.

Despite Protests State OKs Drainage of Coal Ash Ponds, Woodbridge Patch, 1/15/16.

Toxic water to be treated [and] released into Potomac River, Potomac Local, 1/14/16.

Water Board Votes to Allow Release into James River, Fluvanna Review, 1/14/16.

Breaking: Dominion’s permit to drain coal ash ponds into local waters approved, Bay Journal, 1/14/16.
Dominion wants to drain coal ash ponds into local waterways, Bay Journal, 1/11/16.

Battle over Dominion coal-ash ponds heads to state water board this week, Washington Post, 1/10/16.

Swimmers, river advocates concerned over Dominion’s proposed dumping permit in James, WTVR TV, Richmond, 1/9/16.

Concern raised over Dominion’s proposal to release treated toxic coal ash in Quantico Creek, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 12/13/15.

Dominion wants to drain coal ash ponds into local waterways, Bay Journal, 12/11/15.

Toxic chemicals from power plant leak into Quantico Creek, Inside NoVa, 12/10/15.

Dominion seeks Virginia OK to dump water from coal ash sites, Associated Press, as published by Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 12/9/15.

Residents on Potomac River Coal Ash Plan: We weren’t notified, Potomac Local, 12/8/15.

River advocates wary of plan to dump water from coal ash ponds in James, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/7/15.

Palmyra Hosting Public Hearing on James River Coal Ash Dumping, WVIR TV-Charlottesville, 12/1/15.

Treat and release: What Dominion wants to do with toxic water at Possum Point, Potomac Local, 11/29/15.

Lawmakers: Give the public more time to study coal-ash pond plan, Washington Post, 11/24/15.

Mercury Emissions from Human Sources Declined 30 Percent from 1990-2010, according to Research Released in January 2016

Worldwide human-caused mercury emissions decreased 30 percent from 1990 to 2010, according to research published in January 2016 by Harvard University, Peking University (Beijing, China), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Mainz, Germany), and the University of Alberta (Edmonton, Canada).

Mercury is transported globally when released into the atmosphere through coal combustion, mining, manufacturing, commercial products, and volcanic activity. Once deposited into ecosystems, including aquatic systems, it can be converted to methylmercury and pose health risks to wildlife and humans.

According to the a January 13, 2016, USGS news release on the research, the large decreasing trends in human-generated mercury observed in North America and Europe reflect the phase-out of mercury from commercial products, sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emission controls on coal-fired utilities, and the increasing transition to natural gas in power plants. The study’s authors noted that the observed decreases offset increasing emission trends in Asia. “This is important for policy and decision-makers, as well as natural resource managers, because, as our results show, their actions can have tangible effects on mercury emissions, even at the local level,” said study co-author Vincent St. Louis of the University of Alberta in the USGS news release.

The study is entitled “Observed decrease in atmospheric mercury explained by global decline in anthropogenic emissions,” published in January 2016 in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. For more information about the study, follow the link below.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey, “Science Feature: North American and European Atmospheric Mercury Declines Explained by Local and Regional Emission Reductions,” online at http://toxics.usgs.gov/highlights/2016-01-13-global_mercury_decline.html, accessed 1/25/16.

For more information on mercury in the environment:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mercury in Your Environment, online at http://www.epa.gov/mercury.

U.S. Geological Survey, “Mercury in Aquatic Ecosystems,” online at http://toxics.usgs.gov/investigations/mercury.html.

This post was written by Taylor Richmond, a Virginia Tech student doing an internship in Spring 2016 with the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.

The Dan River Coal Ash Spill of February 2014: Science during a Rapid Response — Public Lecture and Hands-on Learning Session in Blacksburg on Oct. 15, 2015

On Thursday, October 15, 2015, 7 p.m–8:30 p.m., Dr. Madeline Schreiber of the Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences will present a public lecture and learning session, “The Dan River Coal Ash Spill of February 2014: Science during a Rapid Response.”

Following the February 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River from a slurry pond in Eden, N.C., Dr. Schreiber and colleagues at Virginia Tech and Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) obtained a National Science Foundation (NSF) “Rapid Response” grant to study the impact of this spill on the water quality and sediments of the river system.  (More information on the NSF Rapid Response Research Program is available online at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf09_1/gpg_2.jsp#IID1.)  The public lecture will cover the timeline of the coal ash spill, efforts to remove ash from the river, physical and chemical characterization of the ash, and water quality impacts in the Dan River.

The event will be held in Derring Hall on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg.  The public lecture will be held in 4069 Derring.  That will be followed by a hands-on, meet-the-scientists session in the Museum of Geosciences, 2062 Derring.  In the Museum portion, attendees will be able to talk with the scientists, see coal and coal ash under different magnification, and visit the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Lab to see images of coal ash.  Groups will be accompanied to the SEM lab.

The event is free and is appropriate for science-interested adults, students, and especially K-12 teachers and other educators who would like to gain a better understanding of environmental impacts of the coal-ash spill.  Free parking is available in the West Campus Drive lots and Perry St. garage (north of the construction site).  Handicap parking spaces are located adjacent to Derring on the back (south) side of the building.

Final Version of “Clean Power Plan” Announced by President Obama and the U.S. EPA on August 3, 2015; Carbon Emissions from Existing Power Plants to be Reduced by 32% Nationwide; States Have Individually Set Reduction Targets

On August 3, 2015, President Obama announced the final version of U.S. EPA’s Clean Power plan, the agency’s regulation to require existing power plants to reduce their emission of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds (often referred to as “greenhouse gases”) that contribute to global warming and climate change.

The regulation was first announced by the EPA on June 2, 2014, and was published in the June 18, 2014, Federal Register, starting  on page 34829; the Web site for searching the Federal Register is https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/search.  From that publication date, the proposed regulation had an initial 120-day public-comment period, until October 16, 2014, but the agency extended the public-comment deadline until December 1, 2014.

The final version differs from the proposed rule in several ways, including setting an overall nationwide carbon-emissions reduction target (compared to 2005 levels) of 32 percent by 2030, compared to the proposed rule’s 30 percent; changing some individual state emissions-reduction percentages that were in the 2014 proposal (Virginia’s reduction target was lower in the final version than it had been in the proposed version); allowing two additional years for states to submit implementation plans (2018 instead of 2016) and for the compliance period to start (2022 instead of 2020); increasing the 2030 target for electricity generated nationwide by renewable sources from 22 percent to 28 percent; and offering incentives to states that achieve accomplish renewable-energy or low-income energy-efficiency actions before the deadline.  States will be allowed to choose from a mix of emissions-reductions options, including using different fuels, energy efficiency, reducing demand, and trading carbon-reduction credits with other states.  EPA asserts that practices to reduce carbon emissions will have “co-benefit” of reducing missions of particles, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, substances that have impacts on human health (such as asthma) and on water resources when they are deposited into water bodies.

The regulation on existing power plants follows EPA’s release in September 2013 (January 2014 publication in the Federal Register) of a proposed rule on carbon emissions from new power-generating sources; the public-comment period for that proposal ended May 9, 2014 (extended from the original deadline of January 8, 2014).  According to the EPA’s Web site, “2013 Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants” (online at http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/2013-proposed-carbon-pollution-standard-new-power-plants), the agency also expects to issue the final version of the new-source rule in summer 2015.

The regulatory actions on new and existing plants both come under Section 111 of the federal Clean Air Act.  Information from the EPA on the agency’s overall program on carbon emissions is available online at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/what-epa-doing#overview.  The EPA actions are part of the federal government’s response to President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced on June 25, 2013.  White House information on that plan is available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan.

On August 13, 2015, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced an informal comment period on how the Commonwealth should respond to the Clean Power Plan, to run from August 13 through October 13, 2015.   According to the DEQ’s 8/13/15 news release on the comment period (available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/ConnectWithDEQ/NewsReleases.aspx), the “new EPA rules may have a significant impact on the Commonwealth.  Therefore, prior to taking any formal action, DEQ is gathering general input from the public to help inform the Commonwealth’s review and implementation of EPA’s final rules for existing power plants…. In addition to receiving general input from the public, the Commonwealth is also interested in identifying and collecting input from vulnerable and overburdened communities. These communities include low-income communities, communities of color, areas where people are most vulnerable to climate change, and communities where economies may be affected by changes in the utility power and related sectors.”  Comments may be emailed to ghg@deq.virginia.gov, faxed to (804) 698-4510, or mailed DEQ Air Division, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218.  DEQ notes that because there is no formal DEQ proposal available for comment at this time, and the agency will not provide a response to comments.

On February 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of EPA’s implementation of the regulation until the lawsuit has run its course. The stay will remain is effect while the case returns to the D.C. Appeals Court to hear the merits of the lawsuit and for any appeals of that court’s eventual ruling.  That court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in June 2016.  Responding to the stay, Va. Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a February 10 news release that “we will stay on course and continue to develop the elements for a Virginia plan to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate our clean energy economy.”  For more on the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Clean Power Plan Lawsuit Against U.S. EPA – Supreme Court on Feb. 9, 2016, Grants Stay of Regulation Implementation While Litigation Proceeds.

On April 18, 2016, the Virginia DEQ released a report on the activities and findings so far of Virginia’s Clean Power Plan stakeholders group, which met five times from November 2015 to March 2016.  According to that report,  “[N]o further meetings [of the stakeholders group] are planned at this time, [but] DEQ will evaluate whether additional meetings are needed after several utility integrated resource plans (IRPs) and other studies become available in May 2016.”  Access to the stakeholder group’s report in available at the DEQ’s “Greenhouse Gases” Web site, online at http://deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Air/GreenhouseGasPlan.aspx, as of 5/10/16).

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION 

A 37-minute video of the 8/3/15 announcement is available online at https://youtu.be/RQ6N8zN3RCA; skip to about 3 min/42 seconds to see EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy; the president’s remarks start at about 7 min/45 seconds.

U.S. EPA’s 8/3/15 news release on the final rule: Fact Sheet: President Obama to Announce Historic Carbon Pollution Standards for Power Plants.

U.S. EPA’s 6/2/14 news release on proposed  Clean Power Plan rule: EPA Proposes First Guidelines to Cut Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants.

U.S. EPA’s Web site on the Clean Power  Plan: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan.

U.S. EPA state-by-state information for the final version, as of 8/3/15: http://www2.epa.gov/cleanpowerplantoolbox/clean-power-plan-state-specific-fact-sheets.

E&E Publishing’s “Clean Power Plan Hub,” available online at http://www.eenews.net/interactive/clean_power_plan.  At that site, users can click on any U.S. state to access information about that state’s requirements.

An interactive map of power-generating plants in the mid-Atlantic region (including Virginia)—allowing users to click on a location to see emissions of carbon dioxide and gases—available from the EPA at http://www.epa.gov/reg3artd/globclimate/r3pplants.html.

A July 2014 report assessing what large electric-utility companies were already doing (at that time) in the areas of energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources is available online at http://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/benchmarking-utility-clean-energy-deployment-2014.

Commonwealth of Virginia comments submitted 11/14/14 to EPA on the draft regulation: http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/Air/Planning/vacommentstoepa.pdf (16 pages).

RELATED MEDIA ARTICLES
(Items are listed from most recent to oldest; hyperlinks were functional when they were added to this post, but they may not necessarily always be.)

Since 8/3/15 final rule:

Clean Power Plan: Meet Va.’s man in the climate rule trenches, E&E ClimateWire, 5/6/16.  [This article profiles Michael Dowd, the director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Division, and describes his role in Virginia’s response to the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan.]

No Consensus on Clean Power Plan, but McAuliffe Cutting CO2 Emissions by Other Means, Bacon’s Rebellion, 4/8/16 [an assessment following the first five meetings of Virginia’s Clean Power Plan stakeholders group; more information about that group, including meeting minutes, is available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Air/GreenhouseGasPlan.aspx.]

To Comply or Not? Obama’s Climate Plan in Limbo at State Level, Climate Wire, as published by Scientific American, 2/16/16.

Navigating the Clean Power Plan Maze, Bacon’s Rebellion, 2/16/16 [a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the “rate-based” vs. “mass-based” alternatives for complying with carbon-emission reductions under the Clean Power Plan].

General Assembly Moving Forward with Oversight of Clean Power Plan
, WVIR TV-Charlottesville, 2/16/16.

Carbon Trading Program Could Yield Significant Rewards for Virginia, Union of Concerned Scientists, 1/14/16 [regarding Union of Concerned Scientists’ report released on 1/14/16; report available online at http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/increase-renewable-energy/meeting-and-exceeding-clean-power-plan-virginia#.Vqd78lIXf6U]. 

Virginia Joins Multi-State Coalition Supporting Economic, Environmental, and Health Benefits of Clean Air, Virginia Attorney General’s Office News Release, 11/4/15.

Activists urge DEQ to turn to renewable energy; Solar power was the most-suggested alternative to using more natural gas and building pipelines, Roanoke Times, 9/22/15 [account of 9/22/15 listening session by Va. DEQ, one of six sessions held around the state in Sept.-Oct. 2015 to gather citizen comments on how Virginia should respond to the Clean Power Plan].

DEQ to hear comments on new EPA rules, Lynchburg News & Advance, 9/21/15.

[Virginia General Assembly] House Republicans push legislation to challenge EPA’s Clean Power rules, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/10/15.

Virginia voices react to final Clean Power Plan rules, Associated Press, as published by Loudoun Times-Mirror, 8/4/15.

Governor McAuliffe Statement on Environmental Protection Agency’s Final Clean Power Plan Rule, Virginia Governor’s Office News Release, 8/3/15.

Virginia reacts to EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Daily Press, 8/3/15.

U.S. plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions eases the requirement for Virginia, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/3/15.

Climate change: Obama unveils Clean Power Plan, BBC News, 8/3/15.

U.S. Unveils Strengthened Clean Power Plan to Combat Climate Change, Climate Wire, as published by Scientific American, 8/3/15.

Obama unveils major climate change proposal, CNN, 8/3/15.

Virginia reacts to EPA’s Clean Power Plan, [Newport News] Daily Press, 8/3/15.

U.S. plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions eases the requirement for Virginia, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/3/15.

Obama Announces Rule to Cut Carbon Emissions From Power Plants; Final regulation calls for 32% cut in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels, Wall Street Journal, 8/3/15.

Will new clean power regulations stand up to challenges?, (15 min./44 sec. video, with online transcript), PBS NewsHour, 8/3/15.

Prior to 8/3/15 final rule:

Energy rules have Virginia weighing new nuclear reactor at North Anna, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/5/15.

Virginia, Coal Country for Centuries, Now Embraces Carbon Regulations, Inside Climate News, 6/16/15.

Virginia weighs joining [regional] carbon market under EPA rules, Washington Examiner, 5/12/15.