- Virginia Sen. Scott Surovell (D) has sponsored a bill that would require Dominion Virginia Power to reconsider its approach to closing coal ash basins, putting recycling as a first option ahead of capping the waste in place.
- The Virginian-Pilot notes that SB 1398 would only impact coal ash sites located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and owned by Dominion.
- The legislation comes as Dominion revealed in a lawsuit between the Sierra Club and the utility that more than 3 million tons of coal ash was stored at the site—significantly more than the previous estimate of 1 million tons.
Dominion told the Virginian-Pilot that the proposed bill would only add cost and red tape to the process of closing down coal ash basins. While the legislation could mean the coal ash is excavated and recycled for use in concrete, the utility notes it already recycles significant amounts of waste and the process of excavating older ash is cost prohibitive.
Suroville's bill would block the state's Department of Environmental Quality from issuing final permits for ash pit closures until recycling options have been considered.
A summary of the bill also notes it would require Dominion to identify water pollution and address corrective measures at coal combustion residuals units (CCR), "by recycling the ash for use in cement or moving it to a landfill, and demonstrate the long-term safety of the CCR unit and its ability to keep ash out of wetlands and other sensitive areas."
The bill would target the Chesapeake Energy Center, where Dominion and environmental groups have sparred over the best way to address the waste.
New research from Western Carolina University concluded in January that the buried coal ash at the site "is highly vulnerable to coastal hazards, including flooding, storm surge, erosion, and sea-level rise. Further, with the changing climate in the coming decades, these hazards are only expected to worsen at the CEC site."