Massive new Charles City natural gas plant, which will emit millions of tons of carbon, approved by state air board

    Mike Dowd, air director at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, addressed the State Air Pollution Control Board Friday during a hearing on a permit for a proposed natural gas power plant in Charles City County. (Maura Mazurowski for the Virginia Mercury)

    The State Air Pollution Control Board has approved a permit for a massive new natural gas-fired power plant in Charles City County.

    The board voted 6-1 to approve the pollution permit for the Chickahominy Power Station after a marathon meeting Friday over calls from opponents and one board member to delay the decision. If built, the power plant, developed by Chickahominy LLC, a subsidiary of Balico, LLC, would be the largest fossil-fired power plant in Virginia.

    A second large natural gas plant is also proposed for Charles City near the Chickahominy project.

    In a statement, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said the board added changes to the permit “to support more stringent compliance” and additional monitoring for particulate pollution.

    The DEQ said the Chickahominy plant will be the “cleanest facility of its type” in the country and use air-cooling technology to manage turbine temperatures instead of millions of gallons of water per day.

    “To ensure pollution control to the greatest extent possible under the law, DEQ took the additional step and brought the application before the Air Board for consideration,” said DEQ Air Director Mike Dowd in a statement. “Based on feedback received from the public, DEQ revised the draft permit to include more stringent greenhouse gas limits, which resulted in a more stringent permit compared to any other power facility in the country.”

    Some locals and conservation groups opposed the plant, with many questioning whether there had been adequate public notice of the project.

    “Over 30,000 people live within a 10-mile radius of the plant, which would spew hundreds of tons of noxious emissions into the air each year; and within 30 miles of the plant, there are over one million people,” said the advocacy group Food and Water Watch. “In addition to immediate public health concerns, the plant would release about 6.5 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, exacerbating Virginia’s role in planetary warming.”

    Air board member Roy Hoagland led an unsuccessful push to delay the vote and extend the public comment period. He was the only no vote.

    Wanda Roberts, 67, moved to Charles City 16 years ago but didn’t find out about Friday’s meeting until Sunday night.

    “They’ve been going on about this for four years,” Roberts said. “I didn’t know about this meeting until four days ago.”

    Stephen Adkins, chief of the Chickahominy Tribe, which did not oppose plant, backed the permit.

    “I’m confident we have state of the art facilities coming here,” he said.