A Virginia regulatory board yesterday approved key permits for a new coal-fired electric plant in the state’s southwest corner, handing Dominion Virginia Power a victory in a fight that encapsulates the nation’s debate over coal power.

After a two-day hearing in Wise, Va., the Air Pollution Control Board voted unanimously to grant air-pollution permits to Dominion’s proposed 585-megawatt plant near St. Paul, Va. The approval by the five-member board cleared the last major bureaucratic hurdle for the plant. The proposal for the plant was approved this year by Virginia utility regulators.

The board amended the permits, however, to make them more restrictive, said Bill Hayden, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The board reduced the plant’s limit for annual emissions of sulfur dioxide, an air pollutant that also is found in acid rain, by more than two-thirds, Hayden said. The board also reduced the amount of mercury, a toxin that can linger in streams, that the plant can emit, he said. Dominion was required to switch another coal-fired plant in central Virginia to run on cleaner-burning natural gas.

In a statement yesterday, officials at Richmond-based Dominion said work would begin on the plant, formally called the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, with completion expected by 2012.

Full Story: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/25/AR2008062502798.html?hpid=sec-metro