With General Assembly Looming, Lawmakers Expected to Discuss Virginia's Coal Ash Ponds

Dec 4, 2017

A drain pipe sticks out of a coal ash retention pond at Dominion Power's Possum Point Power Station in Dumfries, Va.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber, File

One issue that’s on the agenda for the upcoming General Assembly session is dealing with decades of pollution, a problem that could potentially divide Democrats.

Virginia has a legacy of pollution, decades of coal ash dumped into ponds to prevent it from blowing away. It’s the byproduct of burning a fossil fuel to generate electricity. Now a new report says the cost of cleaning all those coal ash ponds could be anywhere from $500 million to $8 billion. Democratic Senator Scott Surovell says he’s worried about what might happen if lawmakers lift a rate freeze that was imposed on Dominion Energy in 2015.

"Dominion would have the ability to potentially pass through the costs of coal-ash cleanup, some or all of the costs, to consumers. So undoing the rate cap, which there’s been a lot of talk about could potentially expose consumers to significant rate increases relating to this coal-ash cleanup.”

Democratic Senator Jennifer Wexton says that Dominion should pass along its costs to consumers. But it should also share the profits.

“If it’s a reasonable cost of their doing business, then it’s right for them to be able to pass that along to rate payers. But the bottom line is that doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in a rate payer’s bill because Dominion has been making such high profits.”

Lawmakers are expected to take up the issue of cleaning up the coal ash and the rate freeze when they meet in Richmond next month.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.