We only have a few counties that produce coal, but they’re still our counties — and the economic tentacles of coal, even in its reduced form, still reach far beyond the coalfields. There are lots of businesses in Roanoke that make a living selling equipment to coal companies.
That’s where the interpretation of the Clean Economy Act becomes critical. The act includes this notable language directed to the SCC: “The Commission shall ensure that the development of new, or expansion of existing, energy resources or facilities does not have a disproportionate adverse impact on historically economically disadvantaged communities.”
So what, exactly, does it mean? Or, more to the point, what will our refashioned SCC think it means?
On the one hand, the act specifically directs Dominion Energy to go carbon-free by 2045 and Appalachian Power Co. to go carbon-free by 2050. That means shutting down coal plants, which invariably means a hit to coal country somewhere.
The coal that Dominion and Appalachian burn doesn’t necessarily come from Virginia, though. Indeed, Appalachian no longer has any coal-fired plants in Virginia, at all.
That means you can’t draw a straight line from Appalachian’s mandate to go carbon-free to the economic troubles in Southwest Virginia. It’s easier to draw a straight line from Dominion, because one of its coal-fired plants is the Virginia Center Hybrid Center Energy in Wise County.