The Facts About the Proposed ODEC Power Plant

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) has proposed building a 1,500 megawatt, coal-fired power plant—the Cypress Creek Power Station—in Dendron in Surry County, Va., or on an alternative site in neighboring Sussex County, Virginia. If built, the plant would be the largest coal-fired power plant in the Commonwealth. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is very concerned that the plant will add significant additional pollution to an already polluted Chesapeake Bay, threaten human health, and exacerbate climate change and sea level rise in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Nitrogen Pollution—More Will Hurt the Bay

A primary goal of the federal-state Chesapeake Bay cleanup is reducing nitrogen pollution. The Dendron plant would add 1.9 million more pounds of nitrogen pollution* to the air above the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding lands. Air modeling predicts that 118 tons of this nitrogen—the equivalent of an additional major sewage treatment plant—will be deposited directly onto the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a system already so plagued by excess nitrogen pollution that the Bay is on the Environmental Protection Agency's official "dirty waters list." Nitrogen pollution promotes excess algae growth in the Bay that clouds the water, stunts underwater grasses, and robs the water of oxygen vital to fish, crabs, and oysters. Nitrogen pollution is a chief cause of the massive "dead zones" that appear annually in the Bay.

Mercury—A Toxic Threat to People and Wildlife

A primary goal of the federal-state Chesapeake Bay cleanup is a Bay free of toxic chemicals. The Dendron plant would release 44 pounds of mercury* into the air. Already, approximately 1,300 miles of Virginia rivers and nearly 40,000 acres of Virginia lakes are contaminated by mercury, including the Meherrin River, parts of the Nottoway, Blackwater, Mattaponi, and Pamunkey rivers, Dragon Run, Lake Drummond, Lake Whitehurst, Lake Trashmore, Chickahominy Lake, and Harrison Lake. All are within a 60-mile radius of the proposed Dendron site, the area of greatest mercury fallout. Mercury is toxic to humans, especially fetuses, infants, children, and pregnant women. Mercury affects learning ability, language, motor skills and, at high levels, causes permanent brain damage.

Nitrogen Oxides—More Smog, More Health Problems

Ozone smog and soot released by coal-fired power plants are associated with increased risk of asthma, heart and respiratory problems, increased absences from school and work, increased hospitalizations, increased medication, and increased risk of premature death. The Dendron plant would release 6.2 million pounds of nitrogen dioxide* (NOx); this is 8.5 times more NOx pollution than now produced by the entire County of Surry.

NOx is a major component of ground level ozone (smog). NOx pollution from the power plant would threaten air quality in Surry County and worsen existing smog problems in Hampton Roads and Richmond, two regions soon to be designated by EPA as unhealthy for smog. According to EPA, power plants are the second-largest source of NOx in the atmosphere; in Virginia, power plants produce 18 percent of the annual airborne NOx pollution. Air modeling predicts the Dendron plant will cause more than 264 tons of sulfur and 286 tons of soot to settle onto the Chesapeake Bay watershed, contributing to hazy air, health concerns, and acid rain.

Greenhouse Gases—Worsening Climate Change, Sea Level Rise

Climate change caused by excess greenhouse gases will worsen sea-level rise in the Chesapeake Bay region, the second-most vulnerable area in the United States to sea level rise. This poses significant threats to the region's environment, economy, and military. The Dendron plant would release 11.7 million tons of carbon dioxide* into the air each year, adding more greenhouse gases to the earth's atmosphere and exacerbating climate change problems. Recent scientific studies suggest that increased carbon dioxide levels in the Chesapeake Bay may increase the acidity of Bay waters and seriously threaten restoration of the native oyster. Coal-fired power plants are among the worst greenhouse gas polluters. To date, no technology exists to feasibly capture and contain carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants (carbon sequestration).

Alternatives to a New Coal-Fired Power Plant Are Available

Energy Efficiency and Conservation—A 10 percent reduction in energy through efficiency and conservation will reduce Virginia's 2016 estimated power shortfall by 97 percent; a 14 percent reduction in energy through efficiency and conservation will eliminate all shortfalls and produce an excess 1,055 megawatts of electricity.** Renewable Energy—Virginia has enough untapped renewable energy resources, including wind, tidal, solar, biomass, municipal solid waste, and others, to develop nearly 44,000 megawatts of electricity.**

* ODEC-provided estimates as of February, 2010

** 2007 Virginia Energy Plan

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