2014-2015 Citizenship & Sustainability Report

Air Quality

Dominion’s environmental investment program has produced significant improvements in air quality since the 1990s – with more benefits still to come.

Our Commitment to Improved Air Quality

We have made major strides in reducing the environmental footprint of our electric generating fleet. Since 1998, Dominion has invested more than $1.8 billion to achieve significant improvements in air quality from our regulated utility fleet as follows:

  • Sulfur dioxide (SO2): 91 percent reduction (emissions per unit of output from 2000 levels)
  • Nitrogen oxide (NOx): 80 percent reduction
  • Mercury: 78 percent reduction

By 2020, we expect to have reduced SO2 emissions by 94 percent, NOx emissions by 86 percent and mercury emissions by 95 percent below 2000 levels.

Sulfur dioxide is a precursor of acid rain and soot, nitrogen oxide is a component of ground-level ozone and a main ingredient of smog, and mercury is a heavy metal that can accumulate in the tissues of wildlife and humans after depositing in our waters and soils.

Meeting the Challenge of New Regulations

We face challenging compliance windows for various proposed new and stricter EPA regulations covering greenhouse gases and other air emissions.

Our main options for complying with EPA’s new regulations will be to retrofit or retire a number of our coal units, convert them to other fuel sources, such as natural gas or renewable biomass, and add new transmission capacity, or some combination of the three.

We have already made significant progress along these lines. In 2014, for example, Dominion retired 595 megawatts of coal-fired generation at the Chesapeake Energy Center. Furthermore, the construction of three new high-efficiency, combined-cycle natural gas facilities will allow us to meet electric customer demand growth while addressing regulatory challenges. (See Stewardship).

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) will provide needed access to abundant, clean-burning natural gas supplies to help meeting growing regional energy needs – boosting economic growth and providing environmental benefits at the same time. Under increasingly strict federal air quality requirements, the ACP will provide a valuable source of clean natural gas, which contains about half the carbon emissions of coal when combusted. Natural gas is also a reliable source of electricity to back up intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power.

Highlights of our Commitment to Clearing the Air

  • Dominion helped break a deadlock in Congress by being the first utility to publicly support passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 – the first major legislation to address acid rain.
  • Dominion also was the first company to test the Clean Air law’s innovative “cap and trade” provision, which gave utilities more flexibility in meeting required emissions limits.
  • In 1994 and again in 2002, Dominion installed environmental controls at its largest utility coal station – well ahead of compliance deadlines – bringing air quality improvements to the Shenandoah National Park and other wilderness areas.
  • In 2003, we spent $400 million to convert two Northern Virginia coal units to natural gas and built a high-efficiency gas-fired unit in partnership with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to reduce regional ozone levels and help meet federal air quality standards.
  • Also in 2003, we signed an historic 10-year, $1.2 billion emissions reduction agreement with the U.S. EPA – the most ambitious environmental commitment ever made by a Virginia corporation. As a result, state-of-the-art environmental control technologies installed on our utility coal stations prevented more than 1.5 million tons of sulfur dioxide and almost 334,000 tons of nitrogen oxides from entering the atmosphere.
  • Since 2000, we have closed, sold or converted 12 coal-fired units across our fleet of electric generating facilities, significantly reducing greenhouse gases and other emissions.
Sustainable Improvements in Air Quality 2014 Electric Output by Fuel

Related Link

Emerging Regulations