Finding a spark charcoal fix: Legislators introduce opposite options for Dominion waste

January 4, 2018 - Finding Carter

If state lawmakers do nothing, Dominion Energy will pierce forward with skeleton to henceforth bury 4 million tons of spark charcoal in southeastern Prince William County this May.

But with a General Assembly’s new event fast approaching, a county’s new legislative commission is crafting a whole horde of proposals designed to equivocate that outcome during a Possum Point Power Station outward Dumfries, and maybe even a 3 other sites around a state where a application is storing tons of a rubbish material.

Ahead of a two-month legislative event starting Jan. 10, 3 Prince William lawmakers pronounced they devise to deliver bills targeting Dominion’s spark charcoal plans: state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th District, and Dels.-elect Jennifer Carroll Foy, D-2nd District, and Lee Carter, D-50th District.

While any legislator’s devise differs somewhat on a details, a contingent is joined in a idea of restraint Dominion’s skeleton to bury a charcoal during a site only off Quantico Creek, where environmentalists and neighbors trust poisonous complicated metals from a charcoal have already polluted a area’s groundwater, notwithstanding a utility’s assurances to a contrary.

The politically successful association will expected infer a challenging counter in any spark charcoal debate, though a Democrats are anticipating that a party’s sweeping Nov victories in a House of Delegates will assistance them pass some arrange of legislation on a issue.

“I only don’t consider burying it in a belligerent and channel a fingers for a subsequent thousand years is a approach to go,” Surovell pronounced in an interview.

Surovell has prolonged against Dominion’s proposal to empty 5 “ash ponds” during Possum Point and connect a rubbish element into one clay-lined pit, a routine famous as “cap in place,” call him to pass legislation loitering those skeleton by May in a initial place.

Surovell’s check also compulsory Dominion to finish a study of alternatives to a top in place plan, like relocating a charcoal to a new landfill or recycling it. The application presented a results of that investigate to lawmakers final month, and now Surovell and his newly inaugurated colleagues are prepared to build off a conclusions with legislation.

“We have had ubiquitous conversations with several inaugurated officials on this issue…but it would be beforehand to assume on specific legislation,” Dominion orator David Botkins wrote in an email. “The event doesn’t assemble until Jan. 10, a filing deadline for bills isn’t until Jan. 19, and anything filed is theme to change during a legislative process. The State Water Commission has been wholly briefed on a investigate and everybody knows a options, and cost tags, compared with each.”  

Recycling focus

All 3 lawmakers are still operative out a sum of their bills and rounding adult support — and Surovell points out that his legislation final year “went by about 9 lives before it finally passed” — though a legislators are austere that they wish their proposals force Dominion to pursue skeleton to recycle a ash. The company’s news showed that such an choice was feasible, as a charcoal could be used in construction materials like concrete, though also almost some-more dear than burying it in place. Dominion’s consultants even think that there competence not be most direct for charcoal among companies in a region, given North Carolina’s possess supply of spark ash.

But environmentalists with a Potomac Riverkeeper Network fiercely doubtful those findings, and Surovell and Carter are conceptualizing bills privately revolving around recycling. 

“A lot of companies around here have already shown seductiveness in holding Possum Point’s spark charcoal and branch it into things like paving bricks,” Surovell said. “If we recycle a ash, we can emanate jobs and strengthen a environment.”

That’s since Surovell, who represents a area in Richmond, skeleton to deliver a package of legislation destined during incentivizing a association to pursue recycling options. He isn’t certain nonetheless how he competence word a bill, suggesting it could somehow make a top in place choice “more expensive” or even bar companies from burying a charcoal entirely, though he’s certain that recycling is a best choice for all involved.

Though his district covers tools of western Prince William, Carter feels about a same. He pronounced he’s drafting a check that would make utilities like Dominion infer that recycling is somehow improbable before relocating forward with other closure plans.

“If you’re only looking during a best approach to dispose of this, everybody agrees recycling is best,” Carter said. “So they should have to infer that other options are better, and not only a cheapest. We need to make recycling a default. They should infer recycling is not a best option.”

Foy’s check will aim Possum Point some-more specifically, as a energy hire sits in a district she’ll offer when she strictly takes over for timid Republican Del. Mark Dudenhefer. Of all a probable spark charcoal legislation, hers competence put a starkest imprisonment on Dominion — she wants to bar a association from posterior any top in place devise during a site.

“We’re not revelation them what to do; we’re revelation them what not to do,” Foy said.

Foy’s legislation requires that Dominion tighten a Possum Point charcoal ponds by Jul 1, 2022, though it leaves open a probability that a association could puncture adult all of a charcoal and pierce it to an off-site landfill where it wouldn’t be so tighten to waterways like a Potomac River. Known as “clean closure,” Dominion’s alternatives investigate disparaged a choice as dear and disruptive to a area’s neighbors, as it would need thousands of trips by truck, sight or boat to mislay a ash.

 Foy has already assured 8 other lawmakers to join with her and co-sponsor a legislation, including dual other new Prince William legislators: Dels. Elizabeth Guzman, D-31st District, and Danica Roem, D-13th District. 

“This spark charcoal is only subsequent doorway to my district…and we shouldn’t be losing lives since of costs to this company,” Guzman said. 

Rate solidify split?

But one facet of a spark charcoal discuss divides a Prince William commission a bit some-more sharply: a predestine of a Dominion rate freeze.

The General Assembly acted in 2015 to bar regulators with a State Corporation Commission from adjusting Dominion’s electric rates by 2023, after a association argued that a Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” would harm a bottom line and force it to lift prices on customers. But as a Trump administration prepares to idle that policy, that is destined during forcing a closure of coal-fired energy plants, lawmakers on both sides of a aisle have increasingly suggested that a solidify competence no longer be necessary. 

Roem has even joined with other House Democrats to deliver legislation finale a freeze, blustering a association for collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in additional gain that it could have been refunding to business a final few years. 

 Surovell suspects that a probable concede competence be to leave a rate solidify in place, so prolonged as Dominion is somehow destined to put any additional income toward cleaning adult spark ash, maybe pushing down a costs of recycling it or stealing it. Should a rate solidify end, regulators with a SCC would confirm how a association uses that money.

“My regard with a SCC is that their resolution to all seems to be whatever’s cheapest,” Surovell said. “If we leave it adult to them 100 percent, they will tell us it ought to be buried…Anything we can do to get a cost down, we need to explore.” 

But Roem questions either a General Assembly would indeed be means to “tell Dominion how to spend a money.” She stays open to anticipating “common ground” on a emanate with both Surovell and a utility, though she would most rather see Dominion “back underneath a auditing microscope of a SCC.”

“I intend to foster a check as it is,” Roem said. “But a bottom line is returning additional increase to ratepayers and removing absolved of a spark charcoal somehow.”

Yet all of these several process proposals, from recycling to a rate freeze, will need to tarry a inspection of Democratic Gov.-elect Ralph Northam and his incoming administration. During a campaign, Northam stressed that he would wait to see a formula of a research systematic by Surovell’s check before holding a position on spark ash, and he isn’t tipping his palm only yet.

“It’s positively something that we’re looking at,” Northam pronounced in an talk in Dale City. “We need to take caring of a spark charcoal responsibly and make certain it’s not leaking into a H2O systems in Virginia. So it’s something we’re going to work with a legislature on, and we’ll do what’s in a best seductiveness of Virginia.” 

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