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Chesterfield County Government Abdicates Responsibility on Gas Plant Site Suitability Determination

Chesterfield County Government Abdicates Responsibility on Gas Plant Site Suitability Determination

After Community Backlash, Dominion Seeks Alternative Site for Chesterfield Gas Plant

RICHMOND, VA — Dominion Energy will apply to build a massive gas plant in Chesterfield at a recently shuttered coal plant, rather than a new site, in order to avoid the local permitting process, communications from the Company to the Chesterfield Planning Department reveal

This “Plan B” comes after a recent community meeting drew over 100 residents, largely opposed to the proposal out of concerns for health, economic, and environmental impacts. Soon after the meeting, nine Central Virginia lawmakers signed onto a letter opposing the project, asserting that the proposal runs counter to climate laws passed by the state legislature. Dominion Energy’s proposed plant would build four new gas generators totaling 1000 Megawatts of nameplate capacity, even as the company is beholden to state law that mandates a move to 100% clean electricity. 

With zoning approval to add an additional power generation facility to the existing site, Dominion will not need to seek zoning approval from the local Board of Supervisors. Without the requisite community engagement process pursuant to a local zoning determination, the Board had just one avenue to exert its authority on the potential for a gas plant within the County: a site suitability form. 

But this week, an unelected County Administrator submitted a blank site suitability form to Dominion Energy with a note that the Board of Supervisors does not intend to make a determination. A determination of site suitability, a part of DEQ’s air permit process, is the responsibility of the local governing body in the wake of 2022 legislation that stripped the Air Pollution Control Board (APCB) of its authority after the APCB denied an air permit for a compressor station associated with the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Southgate extension.

It is not clear whether there was a formal or recorded process for the Board to vote on a determination, or lack thereof, regarding site suitability.  

The gas plant, originally proposed in 2019 but put on hold after the passage of 2020 climate legislation, has previously been embroiled in a corruption lawsuit. In 2023, a Dominion employee and Siemens Energy executive were charged in a conspiracy to help Siemens win a bid to build the plant.

“Dominion clearly did not think it could overcome robust community opposition to the Chesterfield gas plant, and, predictably, has found a way to skirt community input on a massive polluting project that will affect that community’s health, wellness, and energy bills. And now, the local government has refused to exercise its only remaining authority over this issue. We have a lot of questions about how the decision to submit a blank form was made and what conversations took place behind the scenes,” said Victoria Higgins, CCAN’s Virginia Director.

“More than 45% of residents in a three-mile radius of the new plant location are people of color and the same area is in the 79th percentile statewide for particulate matter, pollutants linked to increased rates of cancer, respiratory ailments, and heart conditions. Moving the site a mile does not alter the serious environmental and racial justice concerns associated with the project,” added Mason Manley, Central Virginia Organizer for CCAN.

While building at the former coal site could allow Dominion to avoid answering to the local community through the county zoning process, it would do little to address the concerns raised by community members: the proposed plant would produce roughly 4,500,000,000 lbs of carbon dioxide per year, as well as significant amounts of nitrous oxide and fine particulate matter, all of which are strongly correlated to adverse health outcomes. 

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Mason Manley, Central Virginia Organizer, (804) 404-2941,
KC Chartrand, Communications Director, (240) 620-7144,

Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. Founded in 2002, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.