- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

ROANOKE | Virginia will survey air pollution from as many as 300 older power plants and industries not subject to monitoring under the federal Clean Air Act, Gov. Tim Kaine announced Tuesday.

The initiative will determine whether the plants’ emissions meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards for several pollutants, including sulfur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter such as soot. It will begin this year with three plants that are among the 15 greatest sources of air pollution in the state, Mr. Kaine said.

The plants to be examined were grandfathered in when the Clean Air Act went into effect in 1970. They have emissions from sources such as smokestacks that have not been upgraded, which would have brought them under provisions of the federal act.

“The thinking was that over time, all the existing [air pollution] sources would become new sources through modifications,” said Mike Dowd, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Division. “As it turned out, a lot of these existing sources kept going for years and years and years.”

Mr. Kaine announced the initiative at Dominion Virginia Power’s Chesterfield generating station, one plant chosen for the pilot project. The others are American Electric Power’s Glen Lyn station in Giles County and MeadWestvaco’s paper mill in Covington.

The three companies will collaborate on the project, believed to be the first state effort to evaluate affects on communities from grandfathered pollution sources, Mr. Dowd said.

Environmentalists praised the initiative.

“Today, Gov. Kaine has set Virginia on a path apart from other states,” said Frank Rambo, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “In essence, Virginia will be taking a long, hard look at itself to fully face the persistent problem of air pollution that is created by major facilities here in the state.”

Northern Virginia currently fails to meet federal standards for ozone and particulates, and Mr. Dowd said it’s likely the area not in compliance could be widened to include the Richmond area and Hampton Roads by next year.

The grandfathered companies will collaborate with the department to collect data. If emissions appear to exceed the federal standards, Mr. Dowd said, monitors will be installed at the sites to gather more precise data.

The state will require companies to come up with ways to reduce pollution, Mr. Dowd said.

The initiative will cost the state about $150,000 a year, mainly in manpower, and Mr. Dowd said the evaluation of the first three companies could take a year and a half. Companies’ costs could range from $25,000 to $500,000 for the computer models.

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