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By Andy Rowell
There is a growing political scandal in Virginia regarding the ubiquitous influence of the state's largest energy company, Dominion Energy, and it's raising fundamental questions about the integrity of the governor's office and state regulators who will decide the fate of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Dominion's longstanding exercise of power and influence in Virginia is no secret—the company is the largest corporate donor to state candidates.
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Late last week, First Energy announced that it will close the R. Paul Smith plant in Williamsport, Md. by Sept. 1, 2012. Based on the most recent emissions data, Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) expects the closure to reduce annual emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 200,000 tons annually, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 2,000 tons, and particulate matter by 120 tons. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide contribute to fine particle pollution that is known to cause heart disease and premature death. Nitrogen oxide pollution creates ozone and contributes to nutrient overloading in the Chesapeake Bay.
Since 2010, EIP and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) have been leading regulatory and legal challenges to the plant in Maryland, which has not installed pollution controls to comply with environmental laws and protect public health.
“First Energy made a responsible decision to retire an old and dirty power plant,” said Jennifer Peterson, an attorney with EIP. “Shutting down the R. Paul Smith plant opens the door for clean energy sources, and cleaner air and water for Maryland communities.”
The plant, built in 1947, is unable to comply with Maryland’s Healthy Air Act and had been put under intense pressure to clean up or close down by local citizens and environmental groups. The plant is one of six aging power plants in three states to be shut down by First Energy by Sept. 1, 2012 due to an inability to meet new federal and state environmental standards.
“This is a victory both for children’s lungs and for efforts to fight climate change in Maryland,” said Mike Tidwell, CCAN director. “One less plant that burns dirty coal is one more step toward a real energy solution that includes wind and solar and energy efficiency.”
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