In the first program of its kind in the nation, the Virginia DEQ will determine whether older power plants previously not subject to direct reviews currently comply with National Ambient Air Quality Standards set by the federal government.
A single industrial facility can have more than one grandfathered pollutant source, and there are about 300 such sources in Virginia.
"This initiative is a giant step forward in improving air quality in Virginia, protecting the health of our citizens, and preserving the environment," Governor Kaine said. "The Commonwealth is proud to be a leader in addressing the emissions of these older facilities as we continue our efforts to reduce air pollution overall."
The DEQ emissions evaluations will begin in 2009 at three facilities that rank among the 15 largest emitters of air pollution in Virginia - Dominion's Chesterfield power plant, located about 15 miles south of Richmond on the James River; American Electric Power's Glen Lyn Power Station in Giles County; and the MeadWestvaco Packaging Resource Group facility in Covington, Alleghany County.
The survey is part of the governor's Renew Virginia initiative and will enable the DEQ to work with individual power plants to reduce pollution and ensure compliance with today's air quality standards.
Other states have required some grandfathered pollution sources, mostly coal fired power plants, to reduce pollutants for regional improvements in air quality, but Virginia will be the first state to systematically evaluate the emission of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particles at grandfathered sources.
Dominion's Chesterfield Power Station (Photo courtesy Dominion)
Governor Kaine announced the new program at the Dominion's Chesterfield Power Station, the largest fossil-fueled power station in Virginia and one of the initial facilities to be evaluated.
Dominion, AEP, and MeadWestvaco have agreed to permit the use of the three facilities as pilot projects and to work with DEQ to provide appropriate meteorological data.
As part of the initiative, the companies will collaborate with DEQ to collect site-specific data and perform computer modeling of pollutant levels as necessary to determine the emissions levels for each facility.
While the three initial facilities will comprise a starting point for a larger systematic assessment, the selection of these facilities for evaluation does not indicate they are out of compliance with NAAQS.
Over the next five years, DEQ will evaluate these sources and take on the evaluation of additional sources in priority order as resources become available.
The studies will be prioritized by considering the amount of pollutants from each plant, the number of Virginians potentially affected by air quality near each plant, the cost to the companies, and the existence of any other studies.
The criteria also include the amount of existing information available to conduct each study. In Dominion's case, for example, meteorological data has been collected for years in eastern Virginia which will minimize the need for Dominion to perform additional information-gathering.
In the other cases, meteorological information will have to be assembled for a particular geographic area before computer modeling can be performed.
"To our knowledge, no other state has initiated this type of comprehensive, long-term program for evaluating the local air quality impact of grandfathered sources of air emissions," said DEQ Director David Paylor. "Working together with our corporate partners, this program has the potential to make a major impact on air quality around key facilities statewide."
Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Frank Rambo said, "States have an ongoing obligation under the Clean Air Act to require cuts in emissions that contribute to unhealthy, unlawful levels of air pollution in our communities. We are greatly encouraged by Governor Kaine's leadership in taking this important first step of identifying some of the top sources of those emissions."
"It's critical that the process be rigorous, and that compliance with the standards is enforced fully," said Rambo, "no matter who resides in the governor's mansion."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.