Side with Surry

At the College of William and Mary, students spend a large portion of their time talking about and promoting social justice. With the potential construction of a coal plant across the James River in Surry County, students do not have to look far for a cause. This coal plant would not only prove detrimental to the environment, but it would also be incredibly harmful to the community.

Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is planning to build a coal plant in Dendron, Virginia. The process to build the plant began in 2008; however, the electric company did not use the proper channels to gain permission for the plant, resulting in the town suing the company. Old Dominion Electric has now restarted the process of getting the town council’s permission to build the plant. The planning commission for Dendron approved Old Dominion Electric’s new, legal proposal on Feb. 27. At a March 5 town council meeting, 15 individuals spoke in favor of the coal plant while 50 spoke against it. Regardless of the obvious citizen opposition, the town council voted in favor of the plant.

The process has just begun for the creation of the plant, but there are more stages prior to construction, including analysis of the plant’s affect on various environmental factors and the possibility of poorer in air quality in the area, including that of the city of Williamsburg.

Old Dominion Electric claims the plant will help the town and surrounding area, but this doesn’t appear to be the case. The energy produced by the plant will be used throughout the East Coast, and the company claims the plant will produce jobs, but while this is true for construction, the company will most likely bring in their own specialized workers to run the plant. It will also bring the obvious environmental hazards of burning coal.  Most importantly, the plant may not even come to fruition. As stated by the proposal approved by the town council, the company has the right to decide to use the property for a landfill rather than a plant. The landfill, of course, would not bring anything to the town other than decreasing property value.

The social justice issues surrounding the coal plant are numerous and should be taken seriously. The Student Environmental Action Coalition obtained a letter of concern from the City of Williamsburg and is currently attempting to obtain a letter of opposition from the College. SEAC also compiled 200 signatures on petition, but stopped once the law suit began and the process stopped. Now, with the renewal of the process, SEAC is beginning the petition again.

We urge students to take part in the campaign against this coal plant. It will affect the College’s air quality, but more importantly, it will impact a community within our region negatively. It is a chance to speak out against a company which has done wrong in the past and a chance to speak up for environmental, health, economic and social concerns.  The citizens of Surry do not want this plant built, and we at the College can help the citizens in their mission.

We ask the College to send a letter of opposition to Old Dominion Electric and the Town of Dendron, and we encourage students and faculty to support the campaign against this coal plant.

Editor’s Note: Ellie Kaufman recused herself from the staff editorial due to a conflict of interest.


  1. Great editorial. I am very happy to see that you are taking this stance against the proposed coal plant.

    One note; the town did not sue ODEC. A local blueberry farmer/lawyer and several Surry County residents sued the town and ODEC together. you can read about his story here:

    Also, for anyone who is interested, I posted a very brief recap of the whole story here:

    Again, great editorial. I hope you and your allies in Williamsburg are able to get the college to come out against it as well.


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