AUGUSTA COUNTY -- President Barack Obama brought up politically charged issues in environmental priorities, one limiting emissions of coal fired plants. We have one right here in Waynesboro.
The Invista manufacturing site uses coal to produce energy for it's own fiber manufacturing facility. With greenhouse gas emissions getting more strict, Invista is ready for cleaner energy practices.
Matt Ruscio works at secure futures, a solar power company. Producing clean energy is his forte.
Matt Ruscio says, "we like to say it's a changing world. You don't have jobs from a hundred years ago that are still around today."
And things are changing. Even Invista, Waynesboro's largest private sector employer that is now a coal fired power plant is making big changes, and big investments.
Invista communications Manager Greg Standifer says, "the ten million dollar investment is to preserve the site and the long term viability of it."
Invista wants to keep it's employees around, and emissions down.
Standifer says the change to natural gas boilers, "will reduce the sites annual air emissions by about 70 percent."
However, Virginia still uses coal to make electricity.
Ruscio says, "Virginia uses imports about 30 percent of our electricity needs from coal. So electric costs in Virginia are well below the national average."
Once the Environmental Protection Agency beefs up regulations, this could change.
Ruscio thinks, "you're going to start seeing that cost rise. Especially with the EPA restrictions and and crack downs on emissions from power plants. The ability of these companies to hold on to these jobs may decrease."
Luckily for the valley, Invista is already making it's transition over to natural gas boilers. These will increase efficiency and be better to the environment.
Standifer says, "we don't expect it to have any effect on us, because we don't plan to use coal in the coming years."
If other power plants don't change their processes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Ruscio says job loss shouldn't be a problem, "jobs that are eliminated by EPA restrictions could easily be replaced by the tremendous opportunity that the solar industry provides."
The Invista manufacturing site plans to have its natural gas boilers in place by the end of the year. And the secure futures solar business, already has panels going up all over the state.
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