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Va Emissions C O2 Up*

Carbon dioxide emissions up

Report: Va. had 9th highest rise




"DARKENING SKIES" www.uspirg.org. Click on "newsroom" and look for "current news."

Carbon dioxide emissions from old, coal-burning power plants in Virginia increased by more than a third from 1995 to 2000, according to a report by clean-air groups.

Carbon dioxide is a so-called "greenhouse gas," widely considered a cause of global warming.

"This shows that we cannot continue to rely on voluntary action" to reduce the emissions, said Seth Landau, a field organizer with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, an environmental and consumer organization.

He called for mandatory controls to reduce carbon dioxide.

The old plants' emissions of two other key pollutants - sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides - dropped during the five-year period, the report said.

But releases from some individual plants increased enough to pose health risks for people living near the plants, Landau said.

Virginia had the ninth highest increase in carbon dioxide in the nation, according to the report, "Darkening Skies." Drawing from Environmental Protection Agency data, the clean-air advocates assembled pollution figures for coal-burning plants across the country.

Air pollution is complex, and the report "is only telling part of the story," said Bill Hayden, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

For example, no part of Virginia has levels of sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides high enough to pose a health problem. However, those chemicals can go on to contribute to problems such as ozone and airborne particles.

The Richmond area often suffers in summer from ozone, which can cause breathing problems. Particles such as soot and dust approach but don't exceed health limits locally. High particle levels have been linked to lung cancer.

Dan Genest, a spokesman for Dominion Virginia Power, said the utility will spend more than $1 billion in the next decade to meet federal requirements to reduce sulfur and nitrogen pollution.

The company is spending $370 million to make the Mount Storm power plant in West Virginia run cleaner. A similar but smaller project is under way at the Chesterfield Power Station near Chester, he said.

"I think a lot of what [the activists] want is happening already," Genest said. "We've gotten cleaner."

Plants that increased total emissions did so because Virginia is growing Dominion has added 200,000 customers since 1995 - and those people, with multiple computers and televisions, use more power than people did years ago, Genest said.

As for carbon dioxide, there is no requirement to reduce it and no good way to get it down short of expensive shifts to natural gas and nuclear power, Genest said.

Power plants built before the Clean Air Act of 1970 face less stringent anti-pollution requirements than modern plants.

Environmentalists have railed against the old, coal-fired plants for years, calling them major sources of pollution that contribute to global warming, smog, haze and acid rain.

The new report looked at nine plants in Virginia. Dominion runs six. From 1995 to 2000, according to the report:

Carbon dioxide emissions from the plants jumped from 28.8 million tons to 39.5 million tons.

Sulfur dioxide emissions dropped from 219,239 tons to 214,213 tons. Some plants saw increases, however. Releases from the Chesterfield plant increased from 65,590 tons to 67,519 tons. The overall drop occurred mainly on paper. The Possum Point plant in Dumfries showed a huge drop of nearly 17,000 tons, causing the state's overall emissions to show a reduction. But Possum Point's releases probably didn't go down. The plant's estimate for 1995 was too high monitoring equipment wasn't working - so its emissions figure five years later represented an artificial drop, Genest said.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides dropped from 123,033 tons to 81,145 tons. At the Clover plant in Halifax County, the releases increased from 4,742 tons to 10,917 tons. At Chesterfield, they dropped from 23,203 to 16,598.

The Clover increases are misleading, said Genest. The plant began operating in 1995 with one power unit and added a second unit in 1996. He called the plant "one of the cleanest . . . east of the Mississippi."

Landau released the report in Richmond last week with representatives of the American Lung Association of Virginia and the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club.


Contact Rex Springston at (804) 649-6453 or rspringston@timesdispatch.com

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