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September 01, 2011

Breaking: Two More Virginia Coal Plants to Retire!

What a week for clean air in Virginia!

Just days after the city of Alexandria and GenOn announced the retirement of the Potomac River coal plant, Dominion Resources, Virginia's largest utility said today that it will retire its Yorktown coal plant by 2015 and its Chesapeake plant by 2016.

"These two plants are a major source of pollution in coastal Virginia, and the decision by Dominion to responsibly phase them out means kids will have the opportunity to breathe cleaner air," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "Local activists and everyday Virginians have been working for years to ensure that plants like these get cleaned up or phased out. Today they all celebrate this victory."

The Chesapeake plant alone pumps more than 3 million tons of carbon a year. The two plants send into the air tens of thousands of tons of soot annually, triggering asthma attacks and aggravating respiratory ailments among the hundreds of thousands of people that live nearby. They are the 96th and 97th plants to be retired under the Sierra CLub Beyond Coal Campaign.

Virginia Coal Plant It's been a historic week for Virginia. Pollution from GenOn's Potomac River coal plant affects more than 400,000 residents in Virginia and Washington, D.C. The plant, which will retire in October 2012, releases more than 700 tons of sulfur dioxide and 725 tons of nitrogen oxides every year. Dominion's announcement provides even more reason to celebrate.

However, it remains to be seen what role clean, renewable energy will play in Virginia.  Dominion "has not made a firm commitment to developing wind and solar power in Virginia. It is important that we  retrain the workforce of these retiring plants and create new clean energy jobs -- something that we could accomplish with offshore wind in the Atlantic," said Glen Besa, the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter director.

Nonetheless, today's news is yet another victory for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.  

(Photo credit of GenOn's Potomic coal plant: Javier Sierra.)

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