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Environmental groups challenge coal plant on two fronts

plantEnvironmental groups launched a two-pronged legal attack last week on a planned $8-billion coal-burning power plant in Wise County.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of four other groups, sued in both Richmond Circuit Court and the Supreme Court of Virginia.  Two actions filed in the circuit court are administrative appeals of decisions by the State Air Pollution Control Board.  The filing in the Supreme Court challenges approval of the coal plant by the State Corporation Commission.

The plant opponents face a tough battle.  In the air board appeal, the circuit court must limit its review to whether there was “substantial evidence” to support the regulatory decision.  Va. Code Ann. § 2.2-4027.

In the Supreme Court appeal, the environmental groups must persuade the justices that the SCC based its decision on a “mistake of law” in approving a plant required by law to use only Virginia coal.  The groups argue that limitation violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

By Peter Vieth

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