RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- A State Corporation Commission hearing examiner is recommending that regulators deny Dominion Virginia Power's application to build a gas-fired power plant in Brunswick County.
The state's largest utility with about 2.3 million customers is asking the SCC to give the green light to the proposed $1.3 billion, 1,358-megawatt facility power plant near Lawrenceville.
Dominion is closing or converting some of its coal-fired power stations, as well as opening new power plants, to meet energy needs and comply with changes to environmental regulations.
But the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (http://bit.ly/162yweW ) that the SCC hearing examiner said Dominion didn't try hard enough to find ways to provide power by buying it on the energy market.
"The company's decision not to affirmatively explore actual, third-party alternatives to the Brunswick Plant - sufficient to meet its expected capacity deficiency - calls into question the necessity and prudence of the Brunswick Plant," wrote SCC Hearing Examiner A. Ann Berkebile, who recommended that regulators deny the proposal and direct Dominion to refile its application.
Utility spokesman Jim Norvelle says Richmond-based Dominion believes the plant is the "best way to provide reliable electricity at reasonable cost for our customers today and well into the future."
Dominion noted that Berkebile agreed that the company will in fact need more electric generation capacity and that demand management and renewable energy resources could not take the place of additional capacity provided by the plant. The hearing examiner also wrote that the combined-cycle power plant would be an efficient and prudent choice of technology.
The recommendation, which is not final, will go to the three-member SCC for a final decision on Dominion Virginia Power's proposal.
If approved, Dominion expects the power station would be completed by the spring of 2016. The plant would produce enough electricity to power more than 325,000 homes.
The Sierra Club's Virginia chapter applauded the SCC hearing examiner's recommendation but criticized other aspects of the ruling.
"The hearing examiner still accepted Dominion's inflated electricity demand projections and rejects energy efficiency as a means of reducing the need for a new gas plant," said Glen Besa, the environmental group's state director. "Unfortunately, the SCC still holds efficiency to a higher standard than investments in polluting fossil fuels."
Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com