Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Environmental Quality
Department of Environmental Quality
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3/11/23  4:20 pm
Commenter: James R Hart

Data Center Air Pollution Variance

I continue to oppose the requested variance.  Although the geographic area has been limited since the original proposal, insufficient information has been provided regarding the environmental and public health impacts of increased air pollution on the neighboring counties.  It is difficult to comment intelligently on the revised proposal without more information. 

If the prevailing winds carry the pollutants from the diesel generators in Loudoun County into Fairfax County or elsewhere, what are the consequences?  Those impacts are not sufficiently explained to the public in the revised notice.   Until the effects on the environment and public health are known, and clearly explained to the public, including the impacts to Fairfax County, it is both premature and irresponsible for DEQ to authorize an increase in air pollution, even if it were limited to the Loudoun County data centers alone. 

Are the additional pollutants that will be released from the diesel generators known carcinogens?  Are the pollutants the type of chemicals that reduce the ozone layer?  What are the effects of these particulates on cardiovascular and respiratory health, including asthma and allergies?  What are the effects of these chemicals on vegetation and water quality?  What responsibility does the industry have for additional illnesses or hospitalizations resulting from increased air pollution, and how will that responsibility be determined after any variance is granted?  These important questions have not been answered.

If the existing electrical infrastructure is insufficient to handle the electrical needs of the data centers already constructed, that is the fault of the politicians responsible for the approvals.  The burden ought to be on the data center industry to resolve their problems within existing pollution standards.  That burden ought not be shifted to the lungs of the public.  The data center industry also must aggressively develop cleaner technology for backup power, and not rely on dirty diesel generators.   

DEQ's responsibility is to protect the public from the polluters.  DEQ ought not fashion excuses for the data centers to violate air pollution standards, temporarily or otherwise.  And the expense of any upgrades to the electrical infrastructure should be borne by the industry generating the problem, not on the consumers who are the victims of this unnecessary situation.  Until adequate information can be provided to the public regarding the impacts of the proposed variance, the request should be denied.

CommentID: 211510