With the help and dedication of many people, we have been able to combine our collective efforts to push back the Old Dominion Cooperative's stated date of completion for their proposed coal-fired power plant from 2016 to 2021. I believe we are winning, but ODEC hasn't backed down and is still working to build what would be the largest coal plant in Virginia. We all know that this is a bad deal for both the economy and the health of Hampton Roads, and we can't let up on the pressure.
I want to make sure everyone knows that a critical opportunity to show our opposition to the coal plant is coming up on February 27th at 7:00 PM in Surry County (exact location TBD).
The Surry County Planning and Zoning Commission is being forced to reconsider zoning approval of the coal plant after a judge ruled that ODEC had rammed zoning approval through without proper notice in 2010. The planning and Zoning Commission will hold a hearing and a vote whether to recommend that the town of Dendron also approve local zoning for the coal plant. This is a great opportunity for you to speak up. Bring signs, bring your neighbors, bring friends. I've also created a Facebook event that you can access here and use to help spread the word. If you have access to a list serve or help run an advocacy organization please alert your membership. I'm happy to help anyone get the word out.
Many of you were there when in 2010 the Surry County Planning and Zoning Commission held a hearing and voted to recommend that the town of Dendron approve zoning for the plant. Many of you were there when Dendron held a Town Council Meeting for which no vote was advertised yet they voted anyway - even though three town council members abstained for a lack of advertisement. Those three town council members also abstained because the Mayor of Dendron wouldn't allow the coal plant proposal specifics to discussed, they abstained because ODEC refused to discuss whose properties the rail spur would cross, whose properties the massive pipeline to the James would cross. They abstained because ODEC claimed that trees could hide view of the 650 foot smokestacks and that the smokestacks only emitted water vapor. In the eyes of many ODEC's credibility was nonexistent. How could they let them build and operate a major source of pollution, that is known to cut years off of lives, cause asthma attacks, COPD, strokes, poison rivers, poison lakes, poison the Chesapeake Bay, and dump millions of tons of toxic ash all over town
It was repeatedly stated by council members at the Town Council Meeting that the vote wouldn't be legal, but ODEC's attorneys reassured the pro-coal plant town council members that it would be fine, that no one would sue. These are Virginia's premiere land use attorneys after all, surely they know how to write a public notice. Still, the remaining town council members and the mayor had the votes, and audacity, to grant local zoning approval that night in February of 2010. Shortly afterward, feeling the sting of injustice a local blueberry farmer and lawyer joined other locals to sue ODEC for not advertising the critical vote. It was a simple cut and dry case and ODEC could have admitted their mistake and just held the votes again. Instead they tried to have the case dismissed and they tried to scare the plaintiffs from Surry County by asking the court to make them liable for potentially millions in court costs. ODEC tried to damage the character of the lawyer saying that he was continually trying to delay the case when it was ODEC trying to get the case dismissed and flooding the court with tons of irrelevant documents.
In the end the judge ruled in favor of the Surry County residents and their farmer/attorney. The Planning and Zoning Commission and the town of Dendron must each hold their hearings and votes again, this time properly advertised. ODEC isn't wasting time. As I mentioned above, the first hearing and vote will be February 27th and the second has yet to be announced though it could possibly be in early March.
The increasingly small pro-coal plant group in Surry County has more than their share of power in the county and have worked to bolster pro-coal sentiments in the Planning Commission and the town of Dendron. Those three courageous Town Council members, for example, have been voted out and replaced with pro-coal members. So we don't expect either body to vote against local zoning.
I hope you will join me, and the dedicated people of Surry County, as we make a point to ODEC, the media, Surry and Dendron Politicians, and downwind communities who would suffer for decades to come, that this coal plant proposal is unacceptable.
Though we may lose the local zoning vote, let's treat this as our rally against the plant. Let us show our support for the citizens who haven't stopped fighting for a single day and took a great personal risk in filing the suit. Let's show ODEC that as long as they continue to try to push this dirty deal through the permitting process, we will be there to oppose it.
I hope you can make it.