Surry County Plant

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Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) has proposed the Cypress Creek Power Station, a new coal-fired coal plant. [1] The plant would be the largest in Virginia, and would be in the town of Dendron, which has a population of 300 and is 3.6 square miles large.[2]

The company estimates that the plant, which would cost up to $6 billion, would take 4 to 6 years to build and hopes to have it operational in 2016. The project is still in the preliminary stages. ODEC will need several local, state, and federal permits before construction can begin.[3]

In 2012 ODEC said it would not build the plant for economic reasons.[4]


Surry Coal Plant Hearings February 2012

On May 5, 2009, a public meeting was held with the Dendron Town Council. Dendron residents opposed to the plant voiced their opposition to the plant and concerns regarding the effects of fly ash, air pollution, and ground water contamination. The residents requested that the council to deny the plant and the council decided to table the ordinance for further consideration.[5] [6]

On July 13, 2009, the Dendron Town Council voted 3-2 to create its own planning commission. The proposal gives the town, instead of the county, control over the planning and rezoning process for the new plant. Dendron's planning commission will ask ODEC to pay for a group of experts, selected by the town, to evaluate the impact of plant.[7]

On October 5, 2009, the Dendron Town Council accepted an application by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative for a rezoning permit to build a coal plant in the town. Mayor Yvonne Pierce said that the Surry County Planning Commission expects to return a recommendation within 90 days. ODEC hopes to begin construction of the largest coal-fired power plant in Virginia in 2012 and begin operation in 2016.[8]

On November 23, 2009, more than 200 people attended a public hearing on the proposed plant, most of whom were against the project. Before the meeting, Wise Energy for Virginia and Physicians for Social Responsibility held a news conference to highlight the environmental and health problems associated with coal-fired power plants. The Planning Commission had planned to vote on the plant after the hearing but decided to delay action. The commission will discuss the matter again on December 14.[9]

On February 1, 2010, residents of Dendon and others attended a town meeting to voice their opinions about the plant. Opponents of the plant stated that Cypress Creek would emit more than "20,000 tons of air pollutants each year, as well as 116 pounds of toxic mercury." The plant is also estimated to emit 14.6 million tons of carbon dioxide. During the meeting a tie-breaking vote by the City Mayor moved the project forward, but opponents vowed to fight on.[2]

On Sept. 8, 2010, Old Dominion announced that the plant would be delayed 18 to 24 months due to the decline in power demand and economic conditions, but debate over the plant continued. [10]

In January 2011, the Virginia Beach City Council approved a report recommending opposition to the plant. The coalition said the plant would harm air quality in the Hampton Roads area and is a threat to the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia Beach City Council members directed staff to implement a task force's recommendations, including the city's opposition to the plant.[11]

On March 7, 2011, Surry Circuit Judge Samuel Campbell denied Old Dominion Electric Cooperative's request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the plant. Four residents filed the lawsuit in 2010 after the Dendron Town Council approved permits for the $6 billion project. The lawsuit claims legal ads published before a public hearing didn't include proper information. The Surry County Board of Supervisors also approved permits for the plant. ODEC had also filed a motion to require that the citizens pay damages (likely in the range of millions of dollars) should ODEC win the claim.[12]

On April 29, 2011,the Virginia Marine Resources Commission permitted ODEC to conduct water intake screening tests despite objections of power plant opponents. ODEC will deploy three buoys, each containin a different type of screen that ODEC hopes will show which collects the least amount of algae, barnacles and other debris. [13]

On November 18, 2011, Surry County Circuit Judge Sam Campbell invalidated the town of Dendron’s zoning approval for the project, agreeing with the four residents that had filed a legal claim saying ODEC had violated Virginia law by rushing the approvals through and failing to provide the public with fair notice.[14]

On June 14, 2012, ODEC head Jack Reasor told the Shenandoah Valley Electric Coop, "Today, because of EPA regulations and because of the price of gas, natural gas, we do not currently have any particular plans to build Cypress Creek. We keep that as an option somewhere down the road, perhaps. But currently there are no plans to go forward with Cypress Creek at this time." The comments arrived on the heels of a Virginian-Pilot op-ed by ODEC spokesman David Hudgins stating that permitting activity for the plant was only "temporarily suspended" pending more reasonable emissions regulations from the federal government. Hudgins later said that "unless the [greenhouse gas] rule is dropped, modified, or scaled back in some form or fashion, there will be no more [new] coal plants."[15]


A 2009 report by the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition concluded that consumers would pay more for electricity from the new plant than through the use of renewable energy and efficiency programs. The report was done by Synapse Energy Economics Inc., an energy research and consulting firm based in Cambridge, MA, and found that rising construction expenses, an uncertain economic climate, and the costs related to regulations of carbon dioxide emissions would result in higher electricity rates than necessary.[16]

A 2010 report by Wise Energy on the economic impacts estimated that the number of temporary jobs for county residents during the 5-year construction phase would range between 48 and 217, and that relatively few current local residents would receive permanent jobs during the plant’s operation due to the specialized skills needed for plant construction and operation.[17]

A study released on October 14, 2009 found that the Surry County plant would add "significant and harmful" amounts of mercury and other toxins to the Chesapeake Bay and neighboring rivers already experiencing excessive mercury levels. The study was commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. William C. Baker, the president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the coal plant would violate the Clean Water Act, and state and federal regulators must deny its permits. The rivers in danger of further pollution include the James, Pamunkey, Blackwater, Nottoway, and Roanoke.[18]

On May 23, 2011, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a report, "A Coal Plant's Drain on Health and Wealth," stating that pollution from the $6 billion proposed plant would cause an estimated 26 premature deaths annually and generate additional regional health costs exceeding $200 million a year, as well as threaten safe drinking water in south Hampton Roads. The report used data supplied by Dominion to the EPA. According to the report, soot particles are projected to cause about 442 asthma attacks a year, and the plant would emit thousands of pounds of pollutants each year, such as benzene and arsenic, which the EPA classifies as carcinogens.[19]

Project Details

Sponsors: Old Dominion Electric Cooperative
Location: Dendron, VA
Capacity: Up to 1500MW
Projected in service:
Status: Cancelled


Citizen Groups



  1. Cypress Creek Power Station, Old Dominion website.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Tiny Virginia Town Approves Giant Coal Fired Power Plant" Environmental News Service, February 2, 2010
  3. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed February 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  4. Tamara Dietrich, "Cypress Creek power plant appears dead in the water,", July 7, 2012.
  5. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed May 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  6. "Coal plant opposition builds", Cortney Langley, The Virginia Gazette, May 13, 2009.
  7. Allison T. Williams, "Dendron to decide coal plant's fate," Daily Press, July 13, 2009.
  8. Linda McNatt, "Dendron power plant zoning application accepted", The Virginian-Pilot, October 6, 2009.
  9. Linda McNatt, "Residents rally against coal-fired energy plant at meeting," Virginia-Pilot, November 24, 2009.
  10. Cory Nealon, "Surry coal plant delayed 18-24 months," Daily Press, Sept. 8, 2010.
  11. "Opposition to Virginia coal-fired plant lauded" Bloomberg, January 27, 2011.
  12. "Judge refuses to dismiss residents' lawsuit challenging proposed coal-fired plant in Surry Co." AP, March 9, 2011.
  13. "Virginia regulators OK tests for proposed Surry coal plant" Cory Nealon, Daily Press, May 1, 2011.
  14. "A Wham-Bam Double Win For Hampton Roads Locals Fighting Largest Proposed Coal Plant In Va" Appalachian Voices, November 21, 2011.
  15. Tamara Dietrich, "Cypress Creek power plant appears dead in the water,", July 7, 2012.
  16. Carolyn Shapiro, "Report claims new coal plant will lead to higher rates," Virginian-Pilot, April 27, 2009.
  17. Scott Moore, of Moore Data LLC, "ODEC Power Plant Economic Impact Analysis" Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition, 2010 report.
  18. Scott Harper, "Report: Coal plant would add 'harmful' amount of mercury to Chesapeake Bay," Virginia-Pilot, October 14, 2009.
  19. "Environmental report aimed at Va. coal-fired plant" Daily Comet, May 23, 2011.

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