Dominion Virginia Power is volunteering to close a West Virginia coal-fired power station as part of its plan to build a natural-gas fired power station in northwestern Virginia. The net result would be more electricity to serve Virginia’s growing needs and cleaner air in the region that includes the Shenandoah National Park.

In an accord reached with the National Park Service and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Dominion has agreed to close its 74-megawatt North Branch Power Station in Bayard, W.Va., when the proposed Warren County Power Station near Front Royal, Va., begins commercial operations, which is scheduled for late 2014 or early 2015. Closing the station will combine emissions-reduction credits with other offsets to mitigate the emissions from the new power station. The agreement is conditioned on regulatory approvals and the construction and operation of the proposed station.

“The planned Warren County Power Station is designed to be among the cleanest fossil-fuel-fired facilities in the nation. We expect that it will be at or near the top of the EPA’s national clearinghouse list of facilities with the best air pollution control technologies,” said David A. Christian, CEO of Dominion Generation.

“Our decision to close North Branch makes good sense for our customers and the environment. Our proposed Warren County station will provide nearly 20 times more electricity than North Branch with cleaner burning natural gas,” Christian said.

The agreement, which is now part of the Virginia air permit application for the Warren County station, states that the mitigation plan for the station consists of a combination of emission-reduction credits and emission allowances, which will result in a net environmental benefit to park resources.
Dominion’s proposal is contingent on receiving approvals from Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board. The Air Board was expected to vote on Dominion’s application for the Warren County air permit at its Dec. 17 meeting. The company anticipates seeking permission from the Virginia State Corporation Commission next year to build the new power station.

The North Branch plant was put in cold reserve status in August 2010, meaning it is not currently generating electricity. Without this agreement, the station could be returned to service in a short time if needed.

No Dominion employees will lose their jobs as a result of the closing. The station required only three employees for it to be maintained in cold reserve status. They will be transferred to the company’s nearby Mt. Storm Power Station after North Branch’s retirement.