Coal plant stalled

Published 9:14 am Friday, September 10, 2010

GLEN ALLEN—Citing a slow economy, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is delaying plans to begin construction on a multibillion-dollar coal-fired power plant in either Surry or Sussex County.

“We’re planning to continue the project, just slow it down a little bit until we see how the economy does,” said ODEC spokesman Jeb Hockman. “Hopefully it’ll start recovering soon.”

The co-op announced Wednesday it anticipates restarting the permitting process for the plant, named Cypress Creek Power Station, in 18 to 24 months. The co-op had originally hoped to begin construction in late 2011 or early 2012.

“This adjustment to our timeline does not in any way reflect a change in our goal of building the Cypress Creek Power Station to provide a reliable source of affordable electricity to meet the growing demand for energy,” said C. David Hudgins, ODEC’s director of member and external relations.

The sluggish economy led to slower-than-expected growth in demand for electricity, according to ODEC officials.

Last February, the Dendron Town Council, Surry County supervisors and Sussex County supervisors each approved zoning and conditional use permits for the construction of the facility.

A site in the Surry County town of Dendron that straddles the town’s limits was chosen as the preferred site, but ODEC also purchased land in Sussex for an alternate site.

A report released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation last year found the proposed plant would raise mercury and nitrogen levels in the Blackwater and Nottoway rivers. ODEC disputed many of the foundation’s claims.

In a statement released Wednesday, the foundation said it hopes the delay “is the beginning of the end for this ill-conceived project.”

To-date, ODEC officials said the co-op has invested more than $20 million in the project.

Hudgins said ODEC and its 11 member distribution cooperatives “have invested a significant amount of time, money and other resources to purchase the property and secure local approvals for the project, and we have no intention of turning back now.”