Justice on the Side of Power, Power on the Side of Justice

Needed electricity? Good jobs? Economic growth in a struggling area of Virginia?

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s proposed Cypress Creek Power Station in Dendron, Va., would accomplish all those good things. According to ODEC’s thorough website for the project, www.cypresscreekpowerstation.com (and fact sheet), the project entails constructing a one- or two-unit base load electric generation facility yielding 750 MW to 1,500 MW of power by 2016. Peak construction would put more than 2,000 people to work, and permanent operations would require 200 full-time employees, with potentially 160 being local hires.

The plant would be fueled by coal and biomass, i.e., wood waste. Of course, coal invites reactive opposition — but mostly from outside the immediate region. (Driving through that part of Southeastern Virginia last weekend, we saw many more signs supporting the plant than opposing.)

The Smithfield Times covered the Surry County Planning Commission’s five-hour hearing Monday, leading the week’s paper with the story, “Marathon hearing on coal plant“:

Many of the plant’s outspoken opponents were from outside Surry County. A sizeable number were students at The College of William and Mary and environmentalists with groups such as the Sierra Club.

Some plant supporters complained about the high number of non-Surry residents at the meeting.

“I’m sick and tired of outsiders coming in here and telling us what to do,” Surry resident Barbara Seward said.

She and other supporters said that the environmental and health risks were being exaggerated, that they trusted ODEC to be a good corporate citizen, and that the community in a time of economic hardship.

Of course, you don’t have to be a local resident to exercise your First Amendment rights, but the outside opposition still seems arrogant and elitist. Critics show no sensitivity to important “environmental justice” issues.

You know, “environmental justice?” It’s usually the rallying cry of those who claim businesses construct operations in poor or minority communities to exploit the communities’ powerlessness. It’s divisive class warfare, often part of a shakedown for government largess, and unfortunately given a federal imprimatur going back to the George H.W. Bush Administration in 1992 and most lately reaffirmed by President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency. But since the slogan is what counts for argumentation these days …

  • It’s a just cause to support jobs, strong communities and the supply of reliable baseload electricity.
  • OEDC is not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative, meeting the public’s demand for power.
  • We know the Sierra Club’s goal is a world with no coal, making electricity more expensive and hurting low-income ratepayers.
  • But who in the hell do the pampered kids at William and Mary think they are?

The conclusion is clear: It’s the supporters of the Cypress Creek Power Station who have “environmental justice” on their side.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Lee says:

    Hey Carter Wood, were you at this meeting? If so, then you would have realized that plenty of people from Surry were there–speaking out AGAINST the proposed plant. But it’s an awfully convenient, albeit whiny, argument to say the protesters were “outsiders”, or “privileged tree huggers”, or whatever other nonsense you’d like to spout.
    In zoning hearings, citizens from neighboring localities are allowed to speak their mind. Only ONE individual who supported the plant was from across the river, btw (and he owns property near the water intake facility, and apparently stands to benefit, monetarily, from the construction of said). Boy, an outsider. I guess he shouldn’t have spoke, either. Also, outsiders? For the June Dendron Town Council meeting ODEC bussed in their own employees, both to fill the seats, and to give the false appearance of a ground-swelling of support. This was not something that was entirely optional, for their employees, either. I talked to a friend who works for PGE–he said they were told (via emails) to go to that particular meeting. Outsiders? When you know what you’re talking about, feel free to chime in. Otherwise…..

  • Helen Eggleston says:

    Thank you Bob Foster for your reply. If this plant is built it will be 1,100 feet from my back door. Below is the letter I sent to three people here in Surry County who are pro coal plant. One of them launched a personal attack against me.

    No man is an island

    I keep hearing it over and over, the term outsiders. “Accusations that the ‘no coal’ people imported people from outside of the county”. “It’s time that the ‘California minded’ people get out of the county.” “I’m tired of outsiders coming in and telling us what to do.”

    My response? Oh really! I think both, Mrs. Jones, Mr. Jones, Mrs. Seward and perhaps others need to be reminded that neither of them were born or raised in Surry County. As a matter of fact, Mr. Jones and Mrs. Jones are not even a native Virginians. As for “outsiders” coming in and telling us what to do; that is so foolish and childish. Many of these people who come and speak are people from the surrounding area and who will also be affected by air pollution from the proposed coal-fired power plant if it is built. Do you think the pollution stops at the county line? No man is an island, entire unto himself. Everything we do, to some degree, affects someone else. We are our brother’s keeper. Therefore they have a right to object.

    I do not want to turn this into a “mud slinging contest” just because we happen to totally disagree on what is good for our county. Yes, I did put my house up for sale after the town turned their planning department over to the county but then I decided maybe; just maybe we can defeat this thing and I took it off the market. ODEC’s P.R. department has been very effective in turning friends and neighbors against each other. I hate that! And again, yes, I fell victim to that as well, but Harold, your callous remark about “for the common good” really upset me. I decided not to “come back at you” in the paper after your last article (and you were incorrect about at least a couple of things if not more) for that reason. And Harold, where I choose to live is none of your business. I own the house in Dendron and I pay taxes on it. By the way, Alison Williams of the Daily Press has sat in my den and we talked candidly about the proposed coal plant and what my town and home mean to me. Although I have given a number of interviews to t.v. and the newspapers that particular discussion was off the record.

    What is going to happen to friends and neighbors here if the coal plant is built? Or, if it is not built? Have you thought about that? This county is OUR HOME. I was born and raised here and have lived here almost all of my life. You chose to come here to live and it is no less your home. I disagree with your reasoning about this proposed plant just as adamantly as you disagree with mine. But, I don’t hate or even dislike either of you because of that. We cannot allow this issue to turn us against each other because if we do; each of us will be the loser regardless of what happens with the plant. However, I will and I expect you will continue to fight for what each of us believes is right.

  • peter says:

    You are totally wrong on your numbers. Nearly half the people who spoke against the project were Surry Co. residents. And that was double the amount of Surry Co. residents who spoke for it. If it’s wrong to have “outsiders” like doctors, the former head of the VA DEQ, local politicians, and scientists on your side, then I don’t want to be right. The sad refrain of “jobs and money” doesn’t really mean much when doctors and scientists and the regulators are saying it’s going to kill us. We’re poor, but we’re not idiots.

  • Bob Foster says:

    I just read your diatribe against “outsiders” and “pampered” W& M students who are against the proposed ODEC coal fired power plant in Surry Co. I wish to say that I could not disagree with you more. Does the fact that I live in in James City Co. make me an outsider? The last time I looked only three miles of the James River separated our two counties. That’s less than the distance I have to drive to get to my local grocery store. I took early retirement in JCC because of the high quality of life this area affords me. I regularly bicycle on the Colonial Parkway and the thought of a coal plant belching out toxic smoke and fumes in my direction makes me an automatic opponent of this misguided project. As for the W&M students being pampered, may I remind you that it is still a state university, and is still relatively affordable to those of lesser economic means who might otherwise gravitate to an Ivy League school? And since when is being concerned about one’s local environment a questionable activity? You, sir, would be better served to advocate for the enlargement of the Surry Nuclear Power Station than for a coal burning monster. I predict that if you do get your wish and the coal plant does go online you will quickly realize the enormity of the your mistake.

    (PS. Have you given any thought to global warming? When was the last time the James River froze over? If you read Thomas Jefferson’s early diaries you might be surprised to learn that in his day people drove their carriages on the ice from Williamsburg to Surry Co. to visit friends. Even old-timers here recall the winters when the local ponds and lakes froze solid for months on end. And now we are beginning to see year-round robins. Think about that.)

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