Dominion’s environmental investment program began in the 1990s and has produced significant improvements in air quality – with more benefits still to come.
Our Commitment to Improved Air Quality
Since 1998, we have made major strides in reducing the environmental footprint of our utility and merchant generating fleets. By 2015, we will have invested more than $3 billion to achieve significant improvements in air quality as follows:
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission reductions: 88 percent on average
- Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission reductions: 84 percent
- Mercury emission reductions: 89 percent
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.
Landmark Agreement with the EPA
2013 marks the 10-year anniversary of a unique and far-reaching collaboration between the U.S. EPA and Dominion to reduce air emissions from the company’s utility coal fleet.
While numerous other electric utilities chose to fight EPA air pollution rules, Dominion decided to work with the agency and exceed what the law required in 2003 regarding SO2 and NOx emission levels. At the time of the accord, it was the biggest environmental commitment ever made by a Virginia-based corporation.
As part of the agreement, Dominion committed to invest about $1.2 billion over 10 years to reduce emissions at eight of our coal stations in Virginia and West Virginia – at little or no cost to our customers.
This proactive collaboration with EPA was a major environmental success story that demonstrates what can be achieved when we combine effective regulation with creativity, technological innovation and responsible environmental stewardship.
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 (most likely natural gas or renewable biomass) and add new transmission capacity, or some combination of the three. (See “Fossil Fuel Fleet” section of Electric Operations).
By 2020, when all of EPA’s new rules will be in effect, we expect even greater emissions reduction totals from our generating fleet:
- 94 percent decline in mercury and SO2 emissions from 1998 levels
- 86 percent decline in NOx emissions from 1998 levels
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.