Sierra Club seeks reversal of emergency Yorktown power plant order
The Sierra Club wants federal energy regulators to reconsider their emergency order allowing Dominion Energy’s coal-fired generators at Yorktown, which violate current air quality standards, to operate if necessary to meet summer demand.
The environmental group disputed the Department of Energy’s finding that there is an emergency, because the Federal Power Act defines emergencies as unexpected events before the control of local authorities. It said the reliability issues the department cited have been known since 2012 and it is predictable that demand for electricity would rise in the summer.
The Sierra Club also said the order did not set clear standards for when the plants can operate.
The group said it is acting “in order to protect its interests in reducing the pollution authorized by” the department’s emergency order, “as well as the consequent costs to consumers.”
It added that it “recognizes the vital importance of maintaining the reliability of the electric power system” but said the energy department should reconsider authorizing use of the Yorktown coal units to deal with spikes in demand through September “especially in light of alternative means of securing safe, reliable, inexpensive and clean electric generation in the future.”
PJM Interconnection, the operator of the 13-state electric grid that serves Virginia, asked for special permission to operate the two coal units at Yorktown last month, arguing that the Peninsula was at risk of blackouts that could spread elsewhere because a controversial transmission line across the James River was not in place. The Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit allowing construction of the line, which will run between Surry County and Skiffes Creek in eastern James City County, earlier this month.