A coal-fired power plant in rural West Virginia keeps the lights on in affluent Northern Virginia

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Located in rural Grant County, West Virginia, the Mount Storm Power Station is a coal-fired plant that supplies electricity to 407,000 homes in affluent Northern Virginia
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Built in 1965, Mount Storm has been in operation for 54 years and has undergone major upgrades to extend its life – each day, Mount Storm uses an average 15,000 tons of coal and 700 tons of limestone to generate electricity
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People who worked at Mount Storm prior to 1980 have been diagnosed with asbestos-related cancers, which can lay dormant within the body for up to 50 years
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In an effort to reduce air pollution in the local community, Mount Storm’s smokestack was made taller in the 1980s – the new smokestack was taller than the Washington Monument and sent pollutants high into the atmosphere, causing smog and acid rain as far away as New York
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New York State sued Mount Storm’s owner, Dominion Energy, for violating the US Clean Air Act by failing to install pollution controls on its power plants – this led to the largest federal enforcement action of its kind, in 2003, when Dominion agreed to pay $5.3 million in federal penalties, fund $13.9 million in environmental projects, and invest $1.2 billion over 12 years to reduce pollution from eight of its power plants in the states of West Virginia and Virginia
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The largest wind-turbine farm in the Eastern US was built near Mount Storm in 2005 with Dominion Energy owning half of the project – local residents unsuccessfully sued to stop the development
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For nearly 40 years, Mount Storm obtained its coal supply from Potomac Coal Mine, which had a unionized workforce and was physically connected to the power plant – Potomac Coal Mine was forced to close in 2001, eliminating 120 local jobs, after Mount Storm started obtaining coal more cheaply from another mine whose workers were not represented by a labor union
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The new supplier, Mountain View Mine, hauls coal to Mount Storm by truck – authorities in West Virginia increased weight limits on public highways so that Mountain View Mine could send an estimated 200 trucks a day to Mount Storm, each transporting 80,000 pounds of coal
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The nearby town of Davis, West Virginia, has a population of 629 which depends economically on extractive industries and seasonal tourism
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The area was developed in the late 1800s by the Davis family, whose Davis Coal and Coke Company was once among the largest coal companies in the world, before ceasing operations in 1956
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Devastating floods struck the area in 1985 and in 1996, leading to the loss of an estimated 40 local businesses
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The median household income in Davis is $35,291, below the statewide average of $43,385 in West Virginia, which is the second-poorest US state – a household in Northern Virginia whose electricity comes from Mount Storm has a median income between $80,847 and $115,574
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The per capita income in Davis is $24,000 a year, which places it among the top fifth of cities in West Virginia but is still significantly below the nationwide average
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Nearly a third of housing units in Davis are vacant
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Residents’ drinking water supply has received repeated citations for health and monitoring violations, though three private wells maintained by nearby tourist resorts have had no reported health violations
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Davis and its twin town Thomas are gateways to the Monongahela National Forest, which extends over almost a million acres and includes West Virginia’s highest mountain
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Local students’ test scores are 25% below the national average and the college enrollment rate is roughly half the statewide average
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Mountain View Mine, the supplier of Mount Storm, produces 2.1 million tons of coal a year – as of February 2019, Mountain View had already received 32 federal safety citations for the year, and it received a record 288 citations in 2011 with associated fines worth more than $2 million

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