Surry County coal power would endanger everyone

Published 8:50 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

Surry County has “birthed” many of Virginia’s counties. When others dared not, Surry forged ahead by establishing and subscribing to the county form of government.

It now faces a battle that will affect its residents and all surrounding communities. Will Surry capitulate and allow Old Dominion Electric Cooperative to construct a $6 billion coal plant, or will she say no?

According to independent economic reports (ABT Associates), energy efficiency programs create more long-term jobs and are substantially more beneficial to local and state economies in terms of gross state product than construction of coal plants.

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The bottom line is that energy from coal is more expensive than electricity saved through efficiency. The cost of building such a plant will be passed along to homes and businesses, significantly reducing the economic benefits to Surry County.

Surry also needs to consider that cooperatives that sell electricity continue to tout the use of coal, because it is inexpensive and easily obtained and because technology is being developed to capture and store carbon dioxide.

One need only look at the destruction of the Appalachian area of Virginia to know that coal is plentiful, if you don’t mind the destruction of mountains and the pollution of waterways.

If and when the technology is developed to store carbon dioxide, the cost of energy from coal will soar, and this will be passed along to the consumer. If you think your energy bills are high now, just wait.

According to an article published in Style Magazine, a Richmond-based publication, Tyrone Franklin, Surry County’s administrator, said, “The tens of millions of dollars the plant would provide would be welcome.”

I doubt that, when the final analysis is complete, the county as a whole will recognize such economic benefit. The environmental cost exacted on Surry and its surrounding environs will far outweigh the immediate economic benefit.

The plant will spew carbon dioxide, mercury, and nitrogen oxide emissions. Residents will also see an increase in breathing-related illnesses, heart attacks and birth defects.

Four hundred and thirty acres of Surry’s wetlands are currently part of the proposed coal plant site. What starts in Surry wont stay in Surry, but will flow to the rest of Virginia.

Opposition to this plant is the responsibility of every Virginian. It will be an uphill battle, as opponents of the proposed plant lost their top supporter with the defeat of gubernatorial candidate Brian J. Moran in the Democratic Primary.

Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor, and the Democratic primary winner, Senator Creigh Deeds of Bath County, both support the project. It is important to note that neither of these politicians will live in the shadow or the watershed of the proposed plant.

In the end, all of us must be good stewards of the land, the same kind of stewards that welcomed the first families of Surry in the 1600s. We owe at least that much to the land itself and the memory of our ancestors.

The decision is simple. Voice your opposition to the coal plant to our elected officials. No coal plant in Surry.