8 December 2006 — A Dominion Virginia Power spokesman recently confirmed the company’s plans to import low-sulfur and low-mercury coal from mainly Indonesia and Columbia in order to meet higher environmental standards for one of its plants, this according to an article in The Virginian-Pilot.
Company spokesman Dan Genest told reporters that Dominion has decided to avoid investing in expensive emissions technology by switching to naturally lower-pollutant coal. The plan reverses the company’s policy of a year ago, when Dominion held a press conference announcing its intention to spend millions on scrubbers at its coal-fired plant in Chesapeake.
The scrubbers were previously planned to come online in 2010, but Genest said the switch to a different coal in 2007 will bring more immediate environmental benefits to the community.
Environmental groups in Virginia expressed concern over the use of coal from less stable countries, like Indonesia, with a history of anti-Western sentiments. The Virginia coal industry expressed concern that the move from domestic coal resources was the fault of overly stringent environmental regulations that are making it too costly to use American coal.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the price per ton of coal imported from Indonesia has averaged $22.57 so far this year, up 9.4 percent from $20.62 in 2005. The average price per ton for all coal imports to the U.S. this year is just under $50, which is 7.6 percent higher than a year ago. Coal imports from Indonesia during the second quarter of 2006 were nearly 1.4 million tons, up 15.2 percent from roughly 1.2 million tons during the same period in 2005.
Total coal imports from all countries were 7,956 thousand short tons during the three months of April, May and June. For the same period a year earlier they were 7,233 thousand short tons. By comparison, coal imports for the April-June time period in 2000 totaled 2,745 thousand short tons.