Saturday, September 29, 2007

Florence Scoping Meeting

Images from Army Corps of Engineers EIS Scoping Meeting at South Florence High School held Thursday September 27, 2007.

Morning News Coverage of Florence Meeting

Residents Air Concerns About Coal-Fired Plant
Thursday, Sep 27, 2007
By Jamie Durant
FLORENCE — Proponents and critics of Santee Cooper's coal-fired power plant slated to be built in Kingsburg gathered in Florence on Thursday for the second public scoping meeting by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.The meeting was a chance for people to voice their opinions before the corps makes a decision regarding the environmental impact statement, or EIS, for the proposed plant.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Trey Jordan said the corps uses the public’s opinions to help make a decision on the EIS. “Without (good public feedback), we can’t begin to shape the study and figure out what it is we need to really look at to answer all the questions,” Jordan said.
The 600-megawatt coal-fired generation facility, which would be located on a 2,709-acre tract along the Great Pee Dee River, is scheduled to become operational sometime after 2012.
Santee Cooper officials said the $998 million facility will bring about 1,400 construction jobs to the area as well as 100 full-time jobs when complete.The majority of people at the meeting were against the idea of the plant being built in the Pee Dee for a myriad of reasons.

“I’m against dirty air,” said Dr. Weaver Whitehead, a pediatrician from Florence. “If the power plant can be clean, then I’d like to see it there. I certainly think there are other methods that are cleaner.” Whitehead said there are ways for South Carolina residents to conserve energy, making the need for the plant obsolete. “I hope they will consider the health impacts, especially on our children,” he said.

Bonnie Owens, a Pamplico resident, said she lives very close to the proposed plant site and she is worried about the plant’s impact on residents' health. “How’s it going to affect me?” she asked. “I had cancer and I want to know, is it going to bring my cancer back? Is our well going to dry up? How many people in the area are going to get jobs?”

Although Santee-Cooper said many jobs will be brought to the area because of the power plant, Owens said, many of the local residents aren’t qualified to work in the positions that will be created. “Coal, I’m against that,” she said. “You hear all kinds of stories. I mean look at the miners, look how many have died from digging coal out of the ground. Look how many families have been lost from that.” Owens said she thinks the technology is out there to create energy without using coal, but it simply hasn’t been studied enough.

“We’re here to oppose the coal plant,” said Colin Hagan, spokesperson for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We really feel like efficiency and renewable energy should be a No. 1 option to create new energy. We have the highest per capita energy use in the nation (in South Carolina).” Hagan said South Carolina has many alternative energy sources, including solar energy, offshore wind-fueled power and bio-energy. “Santee Cooper has not even begun to crack the surface of looking into efficiency and renewable energy,” he said.

But not everyone at the meeting was against to plant being built. Some people said it would be a great economic boost to an area that needs it badly. “I think it’s great,” Pamplico Mayor Gene Gainey said. “It would be a boost to our community. Everyone that I have talked to is for it, but we want it all checked out, all the environmental stuff like it ought to be. After that, we’re ready for it to be built.” Gainey said he, along with Pamplico residents and city council, thinks the power plant would be a great addition to the community. “I’ve got in my pocket over 200 signatures (in favor of the plant), from people right there where the power plant’s going to be,” he said.

Florence County Councilman Ken Ard, who represents District 2 where the plant would be built, said he also supports the plant. “This process is perfect because it gives (the Army Corps of Engineers) a chance to entertain complaints,” he said. “I hope there’ll be nothing but legitimate complaints. “But there are some areas of concern and they should be addressed. My district is overwhelmingly in support of the coal plant.”

Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said the company is happy to hear the concerns about the plant. “I hope that there is a thorough airing of the issues that come before the Corps of Engineers for their EIS review,” she said. “There’s a documented need for good baseload electricity.”

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's not impossible

What do utilities who really are serious about being a leading resource for improving quality of life do?

They don't build coal plants; instead they do this:

...Florida Power & Light officials unveiled plans Wednesday to build Florida's first large-scale solar thermal power plant, one of the largest such plants in the world.

The 300-megawatt facility is part of a $2.4-billion investment aimed at cutting the carbon dioxide emissions believed to cause global warming. Gov. Charlie Crist joined former President Clinton for the announcement in New York, once again stepping outside his Republican allegiances in the name of reversing climate change.

"Producing solar energy in the Sunshine State just makes sense," Crist told the crowd at at the Clinton Global Initiative, which draws world leaders, celebrities and scholars for three days of panel discussions and smaller working sessions on global issues and asks them to take concrete steps on those causes....

The investment includes $1.5-billion for a 300-megawatt solar thermal facility in Florida, and an additional 200 megawatts of solar thermal power tentatively slated for California. It also includes $500-million for a "smart network" that will help its 4.5-million customers better manage their power use, and $400-million over five years for a nationwide education program....

The facility will avoid emitting nearly 11-million tons of carbon dioxide over two decades, according to FPL estimates.

Could this kind of plant meet Santee Cooper's projected need? Its likely. Is it appropriate to ask Santee Cooper to build this kind of plant instead of a dirty coal plant? Maybe. In fact, no one is asking Santee Cooper to demonstrate this kind of leadership and vision. Instead, folks at last night's Scoping meeting in Florence asked that S-C look at much simpler alternatives, such as energy efficiency and proven renewable resources.

But if Santee Cooper announced plans tomorrow for their own 300MW solar thermal plant, I know I wouldn't complain -- and the State of South Carolina would have a lot to be thankful for, because they'd know that theres a state agency out there that is genuinely interested in improving its citizens' quality of life.

Opponents of Santee Cooper plant dominate scoping hearing

Florence, S.C. – At 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, dozens of concerned citizens gathered at the South Florence High School to oppose Santee Cooper's plans to build a dirty, pulverized coal plant along a fragile stretch of the Pee Dee River near Kingsburg, South Carolina. The Army Corp of Engineering then held a "scoping" meeting to determine the parameters of an Environmental Impact Statement they will issue looking at the social, environmental and economic costs of the plant, as well as alternatives to building it.

Over 150 people attended the meeting and 41 gave public comments. Of the speakers, three elected officials from the Pamplico/Johnsonville area spoke in favor, along with one member of the community. 37 spoke against. At one point, a speaker asked whether any of the staff or board members of Santee Cooper were present and if they were, to please stand. No one stood up.

The direct environmental impacts of the plant are monumental. Each year, the plant will emit 300 pounds of mercury (a neurotoxin dangerous even in small quantities) and thousands of tons of smog and soot-forming pollutants. The plant site will destroy a hundred acres of pristine wetlands and will draw millions of gallons of water from an already impaired water source.

"Santee Cooper's so-called 'cost analysis' has a number of glaring omissions," said Ann Stoeckman, Florence County resident and associate professor of biology at Francis Marion University. "When we take into account the direct human health impact of this plant – the mercury contamination of the fish we catch and eat from the Pee Dee, the asthma and respiratory illnesses caused by coal dust from trains passing through Florence and other South Carolina towns – the true costs start to skyrocket."

There is clear scientific evidence that soot and particulate matter emissions from pulverized coal plants like the one proposed by Santee Cooper put vulnerable populations at greater risk for heart and respiratory illnesses. These diseases include asthma and other respiratory illnesses, as well as cardio-vascular and pulmonary diseases.

According to Susan Corbett, South Carolina Sierra Club Conservation Chair, "Santee Cooper's own numbers show this plant will generate 7500 tons of soot forming sulfur dioxide and 900 tons of particulate matter every year. This is an area of the state with higher-than-average cancer rates. Almost 9% of our state's children suffer from asthma. How many more cancers and diseases will result from additional particulate matter being dumped in the air?"

Conservationists are challenging Santee Cooper's claim that this plant uses the "best available technology," pointing out that ultracritical coal-fired plants have lower emissions and burn more efficiently. Indeed, as Coastal Conservation League's North Coast Office Director Nancy Cave stated, "This proposed plant will be one of dirtiest plants that can be legally built today, emitting tons of CO2, SO2 and hundreds of pounds of mercury. We call on the Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a comprehensive study of the impacts of this plant to our air, water and human health and to study all alternatives including efficiency, which is the fastest, cheapest and cleanest fuel."

"We expect the EIS study to go well beyond the very narrowly-defined state and federal air and water regulations to look at the true costs and impacts of this plant," concluded John Ramsburgh, Project Director of Conservation Votes of South Carolina. "Why are we importing 2.5 million tons of dirty coal annually to feed the plant, when we can invest in our own clean, renewable resources, which will provide energy we need without poisoning our communities?"

According to the American Lung Association, there are currently nearly 3000 children in Florence County who suffer from asthma, and the state pays $150 million every year to cover asthma costs for patients under 18 years of age. Over 31,000 people in Florence County suffer from some form of cardio-vascular disease.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Images from Tuesdays Meeting in Conway

On Tuesday the Army Corps of Engineers held a public meeting in Conway. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the "scope" of their eventual Environmental Impact Statement for Santee Cooper's plans to build a dirty, pulverized coal plant along a fragile stretch of the Pee Dee River near Kingsburg, South Carolina.

The direct environmental impacts of the plant are monumental. Each year, the plant will emit 300 pounds of mercury (a neurotoxin dangerous even in small quantities) and thousands of tons of smog and soot-forming pollutants (SO2, NOx and PM2.5). The plant will destroy over 2000 acres of what is now unspoiled land along the Pee Dee, including a hundred acres of pristine wetlands, and will draw millions of gallons of water from an already impaired water source.

Concerned citizens protested Santee Cooper's plant before the meeting (above; click for larger view). The public comment period began shortly after 7:00 PM. A above-capacity crowd filled the auditorium at Coastal Carolina University, with participants standing in the aisles and along the back wall in order to have their say. Over 40 folks stood and expressed their opinions to the US Army Corps of engineers. Comments were overwhelmingly opposed to the coal plant, and ran the gamut from concerns with how Santee Cooper's plant would damage the environment, to how the plant would harm the health of those living near or downstream from the plant, to the numerous cleaner and cheaper alternatives to building a coal plant. Only two attendees spoke in favor of the plant; neither of which were able to address the overwhelmingly negative environmental and social impacts of the proposal.

All in all, it was a successful expression of the public's opposition to a dirty coal plant. The public forum continues tonight in Florence. Please consider coming out and having your say. At 5 p.m. this evening concerned citizens will gather in the parking lot of the South Florence High School to express opposition to Santee Cooper's plans. Sign-ups for a chance to speak before the Corps will begin at 6 PM and the scoping meeting itself should start shortly thereafter:

EIS Scoping Meeting
Thursday, September 27, 2007
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
South Florence High School
3200 South Irby Street
Florence, SC
in the Commons Area and the Auditorium

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Come Join the Pre-Meeting Rally!

SCCCL, SC Conservation Voters and College of Charleston students are planning a rally in opposition to the proposed Santee Cooper coal fired plant in the parking lot at South Florence High School (3200 South Irby Street, Florence) at 5:30 PM before the Army Corps of Engineers EIS Meeting this Thursday, September 27th at 6:00.

Please come and show your support!

News Coverage of 1st Scoping Meeting

WPDE ABC News Channel 15 Myrtle Beach / Florence covered the scoping meeting that took place Tuesday evening September 25 at Coastal Carolina University.

To see the Web Video Go To: and click on "Watch Today's Weathercast and Top News Stories."

Monday, September 24, 2007

International Climate Action Urged, sans Bush

U.N. Chief Urges Immediate Climate Action
Published: September 24, 2007

New York Times:

The U.N High-Level Event on Climate Change at the United Nations General Assembly in New York began today. The one day meeting, organized by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, was organized to build political momentum toward launching negotiations later this year for deep cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxide and other manmade gases responsible for global warming.

“Inaction now will prove the costliest action of all in the long term,” Ban said in his opening address to the summit. A breakthrough is needed in global talks to sharply reduce emissions of global-warming gases and “the time for doubt has passed.”

President Bush wasn’t participating in the day’s meeting. Rather than accept treaty obligations, Bush has urged industry to cut emissions voluntarily, and emphasizes research on clean-energy technology as one answer. A strategy that is clearly not working as demonstrated in our local community by Santee Cooper’s eagerness to build a coal plant that does not even use the best available technology.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Morning News Coverage of Meetings

Proposed coal plant focus of meetings

Saturday, Sep 22, 2007 - 11:21 PM

By Jamie Durant

The Army Corps of Engineers will be holding two public meetings to determine the thoughts of the community on the proposed Santee Cooper coal-burning power plant in Kingsburg.The meetings will offer citizens a chance to express their feelings on the issue for the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS is required by the state for Santee Cooper to move forward with the plant. The 600-megawatt coal-fired generation facility, which would be located on a 2,709-acre tract along the Great Pee Dee River, is scheduled to become operational sometime after 2012. Santee Cooper officials said the $998 million facility will bring about 1,400 construction jobs to the area as well as 100 full-time jobs when complete.Nancy Cave, director of the Northcoast office of the Coastal Conservation League, said the meetings are a way for people to tell the Army Corps of Engineers what they want to be studied in the EIS.“It also needs to thoroughly look at the impact of a coal plant, the air impact, the water impact and of course, the impact human health,” Cave said. “It will have impacts of about 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is the primary gas in global warming. It will emit thousands of tons of smog and soot. It will emit over 300 pounds of mercury annually, and the Great Pee Dee is already an impaired river with a mercury advisory.”Cave was referring to the status of the Great Pee Dee River, saying residents are advised to eat no more than one fish from the river per month, because of the high mercury content in the fish living there.“The question has to be asked, ‘What will this coal plant do to the Great Pee Dee River in regards to mercury pollution?’” she said.Cave said she thinks people must be told the proposed plant will, according to the Coastal Conservation League, have a significant impact on the health of state residents.“I think what is interesting is that more and more people across the state are becoming aware of what coal plants do to our air and water,” she said. “The whole discussion about global warming is becoming such that people all across the country and the world are talking about it.”Cave referred to a proposed coal plant in Georgia that was denied a permit to build a facility and a similar situation in Florida earlier this year.“We have to find alternatives,” she said. “They’re there. One of the alternatives is just to be more efficient.” Laura Varn, spokeswoman for Santee Cooper, said she thinks the meetings will be successful.“I believe that they’ll get some really good info at the scopings as to what should be included in the environmental impact statement,” she said.Despite what the opponents of the power plant say, the need for additional power in South Carolina is a real issue, Varn said.“We are working to meet that power need in two ways,” she said. “One is by building this plant with the best environmental control technology. It will be one of the cleanest power plants in the country. We are aggressively pursuing additional conservation and energy efficiency measures as a way to help meet the state’s growing energy needs.”Varn said the numbers give a greater understanding of the reductions Santee Cooper is planning to make in the emissions from the proposed plant.“(The environmental control technology) will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 97 percent,” she said. “It will reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 90 percent. And it will reduce mercury by between 85 and 90 percent.”The amount of mercury emissions reduced is key because that seems to be a top concern of environmentalists in the area, Varn said. The amount of mercury that will be released won’t be measurable in tons, but rather in pounds.“It’s the equivalent to the size of a pinhead on a basketball court,” she said. “We meet and exceed all of the state and federal requirements as it is related to mercury and other emissions requirements that are protective of human health and the environment.”

Friday, September 21, 2007

Speak Out on the Proposed Pee Dee Plant !

Next week, two important public hearings will be held on Santee Cooper’s misguided plan to build a coal-fired power plant on the Great Pee Dee River.

The plant would emit 300 pounds of mercury (a neurotoxin dangerous even in small quantities), 8.7 million tons of the global warming gas, CO2, and thousands of tons of smog and soot-forming pollutants (SO2, NOx and PM2.5) every year. In addition, hundreds of acres of coal ash landfills would be located near the Great Pee Dee River and the plant would use millions of gallons of water per day, impacting almost a hundred acres of wetlands.

Fortunately, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required for the plant. The EIS must look at all alternatives to the plant and compare the environmental impacts of those alternatives. The Corp of Engineers, which is conducting the EIS, is hosting two meetings next week to “scope” out what issues the EIS should look consider.

Please attend at least one of these meetings and demand that the Corps consider every possible alternative to the plant and all of the environmental impacts, rather than just accepting Santee Cooper’s word that another dirty coal plant makes sense for South Carolina. There are better choices that would have less environmental impact and would save the state money.

The meetings will be held:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
6:00pm – 9:00pm
Coastal Carolina University
Conway, SC
Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts Recital Hall

Thursday, September 27, 2007
6:00pm – 9:00pm
South Florence High School
3200 South Irby Street
Florence, SC
High school commons area and auditorium

The meeting format will allow citizens to give their comments publicly or in writing. If you are unable to attend a meeting you can comment online at:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Coastal Concerns

With South Carolina’s 187 miles of coast line (2,876 miles if all bays, inlets and islands are considered) global warming should be on the top of our list of concerns. The last thing our State needs is another dirty coal plant.

From: Environmental News Network

New Report Details Potential Devastation of Sea Level Rise

By: Kristina Kershner of Architecture 2030

SUNDANCE, UT — A coastal impact study "Nation Under Siege" issued today by Architecture 2030 makes clear that without a moratorium on coal, the United States will be unable to avert the dangerous impacts of climate change. Ed Mazria, founder of Architecture 2030, released the report at the Sundance Summit in Utah, a gathering of more than 40 mayors from across the country who are gathered to discuss the science behind and the local solutions to global warming. The study includes new visual imaging and reveals that, beginning with just one meter of sea level rise, many areas of the US will experience devastating consequences.

The report is available online.

Mazria addressed the mayors at Sundance after a Sunday night keynote speech by Florida Governor Crist and welcoming remarks from Robert Redford, who hosts the annual event with Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability.
"Sea level rise is the greatest threat to the stability of our country. The daunting images in our study make clear that we, as a nation, will be physically under siege, vulnerable to catastrophic property and infrastructure loss with large population disruptions and economic hardship," said Mazria.

The US is a coastal nation, with over 12,000 miles of coastline. Fifty-three percent of all Americans live in and around coastal cities and towns. According to Architecture 2030's study, "Nation Under Siege", which examines 31 of these cities and towns, the US is extremely vulnerable to even small increments of sea level rise.

"There is still time to avert dangerous climate change, but we must act now. The window of opportunity is closing," stated Mazria. "The key to all of this is the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere," said Mazria.

According to the study, scientists are forewarning that, at approximately 450 parts per million (ppm) CO2 in the atmosphere, we will trigger potentially irreversible glacial melt and sea level rise. We are currently at 383 ppm, and are increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 at about 2 ppm annually. At this growth rate, we will reach 450 ppm by 2035, or sooner. The study concludes that continued growth of CO2 -producing infrastructure and emissions for another 10 years will make it impractical, and most likely impossible, to avert exceeding the 450 ppm threshold.

The study offers a two-pronged solution to the global-warming crisis: a moratorium on coal and implementing The 2030 Challenge, a strategy to dramatically reduce the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of the Building Sector. The US alone has 151 new conventional coal-fired power plants in various stages of development. Globally, at least one new conventional coal-fired power plant is being added each week. As the most plentiful, cheapest and dirtiest fossil fuel, coal is positioned to push the planet beyond 450 ppm, and trigger dangerous climate change. To illustrate the devastating effects of coal, Mazria provided a sobering tale: Wal-Mart is investing a half billion dollars to reduce the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of their existing buildings by 20 percent over the next seven years. If every Wal-Mart Supercenter met this target, the CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized coal-fired power plant, in just one month of operation each year, would negate this entire effort.

This Blog Comes to you Ad Free (Almost -- New Yorker Magazine, 9/17)

(Click on image to view large .pdf version)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

DHEC Fails to Protect the Public's Health Again?

DHEC is at it again. From The State 9/18/07:

Coal plant clears first hurdle: Santee Cooper gets DHEC air permit despite calls from environmentalists to wait for study


Santee Cooper won the first round Monday in its fight to build a nearly $1 billion power plant in rural Florence County.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said it will issue a draft air pollution permit for the coal-fired plant, despite calls by conservation groups for more study.

Conservationists have urged state regulators to wait for the results of a federal environmental impact statement before issuing the permit.

But DHEC officials said they can’t wait.

In an e-mail Thursday to environmentalists, DHEC air regulator Rhonda Banks Thompson said her agency isn’t allowed to hold up an air permit indefinitely when someone has “submitted all required information.’’ She said the agency will look thoroughly at the coal-fired power plant’s environmental impact.

DHEC will hold a public meeting this fall before making a final decision on the permit.

Santee Cooper, the state-owned electric utility, is under fire from conservation groups that say a new coal plant would pollute South Carolina’s air — and contribute to global warming.

Coal-fired plants are major sources of greenhouse gases, which heat the environment. Some utilities have slowed plans to build more coal plants.

In this case, the Southern Environmental Law Center says the coal-fired plant could pump 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide and more than 300 pounds of mercury into the air each year, as well as soot. Fish throughout the state’s coastal plain are polluted by mercury, which scientists believe is raining into rivers from the air.

“It makes zero sense to issue any permit before environmental studies are complete,’’ said Blan Holman, a lawyer with the law center.

Santee Cooper spokeswoman Laura Varn was not available Monday evening, but the company has said it needs a new source of power to meet growing demands in eastern South Carolina.

It also notes the environmental impact statement is being done for a wetlands permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must grant for the new plant along the Great Pee Dee River.

Corps officials plan public meetings next week in Conway and Florence. DHEC will hold a public hearing on the draft air pollution permit in November, according to plans. The agency will take public comments until then.

Reach Fretwell at (803) 771-8537.

DHEC to Issue Draft PSD Permit

Yesterday, DHEC issued a letter (below) explaining its decision to grant a draft Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit to Santee Cooper. The permit will eventually grant S-C the right to pollute the relatively clean air in Florence County with a number of dangerous pollutants, degrading the air quality for hundreds of surrounding miles.

The specific details of the permit are presently unknown. Watch this space for news of the release of the draft permit. When issued, the public has the right to submit comments on DHEC's decision.

Thank you for your interest in the proposed Santee Cooper Pee Dee power plant project. We appreciate your interest and early involvement in our air permitting process.

Many of you have requested that SC DHEC not issue the draft Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) air permit until the U.S. Corps of Engineers issues its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this proposed project. While the EIS is required for the wetlands permit, it is not required for the issuance of the PSD permit.

The PSD permitting process thoroughly addresses all air quality impacts of air pollutants regulated by the PSD program. The PSD permitting process also ensures that all state and federal regulatory air quality requirements will be met. Other air pollutants not regulated by the PSD program, such as greenhouse gases and emissions from mobile sources, are not included in the draft PSD permit.

In addition, our regulations specify that a final PSD determination should be made within a specified timeframe, and we are not allowed to hold a permit application indefinitely when a facility has submitted all required information to meet the PSD regulations. Therefore, after careful review of all comments submitted to date, as well as our current regulations, we have decided to proceed with issuance of the draft PSD air permit. We estimate that the draft PSD permit and preliminary determination will be placed on public notice by early October 2007, with a public hearing to follow in November 2007. We welcome your comments on the draft permit and preliminary determination once they are made available to the public. If you have already submitted comments, we will continue to evaluate and consider those comments during the official public comment period.

Many of you have also expressed interest in further discussion on the need for the proposed Pee Dee plant along with other possible alternatives to the plant such as energy conservation. The public scoping meetings sponsored by the U.S. Corps of Engineers for the EIS will give the public an opportunity to discuss energy needs and alternatives to the proposed plant. Although an evaluation of the need for the plant and possible alternatives are not part of the PSD permitting process, all requirements resulting from the EIS must be addressed by Santee Cooper.

SC DHEC is fully committed to participating in interagency meetings and the public scoping meetings. We will also review and provide feedback on the draft and final EIS documents. The public scoping meetings are planned for September 25, 2007, in Conway, SC and on September 27, 2007, in Florence, SC. Please visit for more information about the public scoping meetings.

Thank you again for your comments and interest in this proposed project. Please feel free to forward this information to others you know who may be interested. Should you have any questions or need additional information please visit our website at or contact us at

Monday, September 17, 2007

Reid sees an example worth following


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Friday advanced a new argument in his campaign to block development of conventional coal-burning power plants in Nevada, citing reports that coal-fired plants are being canceled and curtailed in seven other states.
"All these states are saying no to coal power plants that use inefficient and polluting technology," Reid said in a statement. "Instead, they're investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency because that makes so much more sense in the long run for the environment, consumers and their economies."
The report comes as part of Reid's promise to use all his power to stop coal-fired power plants under development in Nevada. He opposes coal power plants being developed by Sierra Pacific Resources of Reno, LS Power of East Brunswick, N.J.; and Sithe Global Power of Houston.
Top executives at Sierra Pacific, the parent company for Nevada Power Co. and Sierra Pacific Power Co., disagreed, citing statistics that indicate numerous coal-fired power plants are in late stages of development around the country.
Sierra Pacific Chief Executive Officer Michael Yackira counted 100 coal power plants under development around the country. Half of those projects, with total generating capacity of 24,000 megawatts, are in advanced stages of development or permitting, Yackira said.
But Reid said the Department of Energy reported two dozen coal projects have been canceled since early last year.
Although Nevada's electric utilities are getting more power from renewable resources such as sunlight, wind and geothermal or hot underground water, Yackira contends that the utilities must also develop conventional coal plants.
"We simply need to have more coal in our fuel mix," Yackira said.
Nevada Power and Sierra Pacific Power get 70 percent of their electricity from plants that use natural gas, which has shot up in price in recent years. The utilities want to use coal for part of the power plants to reduce reliance on gas.
Reid argues that Nevada utilities can satisfy growing demand by developing more renewable resources, promoting energy conservation and fostering combined heat and power or cogeneration plants that efficiently use energy for multiple functions in large buildings.
Executives with the Nevada utilities say they also support energy efficiency and renewable energy but argue that they also need more conventional power.
Reid suggested Nevada follow the example of Colorado, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Washington where regulators, public officials or utility executives postponed, curtailed or canceled coal plants.
The last coal power plant in Nevada, Valmy unit two in Northern Nevada, was completed in 1985.
Roberto Denis, senior vice president of Sierra Pacific Resources, said the long duration since the last coal project reflects a decision by Nevada to stop building all kinds of power plants in the 1990s when utilities relied on then cheap wholesale power from other states. Wholesale power prices skyrocketed during the western energy crisis of 2000 and 2001, leading Nevada officials to build and buy power plants in Nevada.
Sempra Energy shelved plans to build a 1,450-megawatt, coal-fired plant in Northern Nevada a couple of years ago, but Nevada utility officials said the plant provoked controversy because it was going to use Nevada resources to generate power for California and other states.
Sierra Pacific executives say their coal-fired power project near Ely will be used to generate electricity for use in Nevada.
State regulators in Florida rejected a coal plant project there this year. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist urged utilities to stop relying on coal and gas-fired plants because conventional plants produce carbon dioxide, which may lead to global warming.
Two cooperative electric utilities reduced the size of a coal-fired power project in Kansas this year, Reid reported. Duke Energy dropped plans this year for a coal plant in North Carolina after the project's costs increased. Avista Utilities decided to rely on gas-fired power plants and windmills for power instead of new coal plants, Reid said. Oklahoma regulators rejected an application for a coal-fired plant this month.
The Edison Electric Institute has pointed to rapid increases in recent coal-fired and renewable energy power projects, but Yackira said Sierra still estimates a total cost of $3.8 billion for the 1,500-megawatt Ely Energy Center and a related transmission line.

Need another reason?

How about fiscal accountability for the state’s public service authority, Santee Cooper?

(From Sunday’s New York Times)

New York Subpoenas 5 Energy Companies


Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has opened an investigation of five large energy companies, questioning whether their plans to build coal-fired power plants pose undisclosed financial risks that their investors should know about.

Mr. Cuomo, using the same state securities law wielded by his predecessor, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to investigate corruption on Wall Street, sent subpoenas late Friday to the top executives of the five companies, seeking internal documents.

The companies, which have projects in various states, are AES Corporation, Dominion, Dynegy, Peabody Energy and Xcel Energy.

It is rare, if not unique, for a securities law to be used for an environmental purpose, in this case the fight against new coal-fired power plants. The plants’ main emission, carbon dioxide, has been linked by scientists to global warming.

In letters accompanying the subpoenas, the attorney general’s office asked whether investors received adequate information about the potential financial liabilities of carbon dioxide emissions that exacerbate climate change.

“Any one of the several new or likely regulatory initiatives for CO2 emissions from power plants — including state carbon controls, E.P.A.’s regulations under the Clean Air Act, or the enactment of federal global warming legislation — would add a significant cost to carbon-intensive coal generation,” the letters said.

They added, “Selective disclosure of favorable information or omission of unfavorable information concerning climate change is misleading.”

Mr. Cuomo’s move represents a new tactic in an expanding campaign against some of the more than 100 coal-fired power plants currently under consideration.

The nationwide anti-coal effort is being directed by a coalition of environmental groups, shareholder activists and state officials in the Northeast and on the West Coast, including in New York and California.

In an interview, Mr. Cuomo said, “The concept here is using the securities laws to investigate whether the economic risks of these plants are being disclosed — the economic risks which are dovetailing with the environmental concerns.”

Katherine Kennedy, a special deputy attorney general in the environmental protection bureau who worked for the Natural Resources Defense Council for 19 years, added that power plants produced about 30 percent of carbon emissions in the United States, so “it seemed like a logical place to begin.”

Mr. Cuomo said, “It’s a priority for us.”

Two of the five companies disputed Mr. Cuomo’s assertions. Representatives of the other companies postponed comment until they could examine the letters and subpoenas.

The power plant investigation was the second last week in which Mr. Cuomo issued subpoenas under the Martin Act, a 1921 state securities law that predates the creation of the federal Securities and Exchange Commission. The New York law grants the attorney general broad powers to compel testimony and subpoena records.

Until Mr. Spitzer used the law as a weapon against corruption on Wall Street, it was obscure. In June, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page called for its repeal, arguing that “it is a law that allows a prosecutor to punish, or even ruin, any financial company regardless of evidence or motive.”

In the case of the five energy companies, Mr. Cuomo said, “This is a very straightforward, consistent use of the act because it’s about disclosure to investors.”

For five years, environmentally oriented shareholder groups have been filing resolutions seeking similar disclosures — including one with Peabody Energy — said Dan Bakal, the director of electric power programs for Ceres, a Boston-based coalition of investors and environmental groups focused on the environmental impacts of corporate actions.

“This ratchets up the pressure on companies to provide more information as the risks become more and more material,” Mr. Bakal said. Peabody Energy, he added, had increased its disclosure somewhat following shareholders’ requests.

Vic Svec, a spokesman for Peabody, said in an e-mail message yesterday that the company included climate change disclosures “in multiple places” in its public financial filings.

Mr. Svec also said the letter was inaccurate “in claiming that we operate power plants.” He said Peabody is a minority partner in a planned Illinois plant.

Mr. Svec called the New York action “outrageous,” adding, “The legal system was designed to protect — not harass — those such as Peabody who are providing clean energy solutions for America.”

Representatives of Dynegy, Dominion and AES said the documents were under review.

Xcel Energy is building a coal-fired plant in Colorado that was cited in the letter from the attorney general.

A company spokeswoman, Mary Sandok, said in an e-mailed statement: “The plant under construction in Colorado is being built under an agreement we reached with national, state and local environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and Environmental Defense. Our financial disclosures are adequate.”

Data from the federal Energy Information Administration shows that about half the country’s electrical generation comes from coal. For the next two or three years, new capacity will be coming largely from natural gas.

But coal, which is now the cheapest fuel — absent expensive technology, still in its experimental stage, to control carbon dioxide emissions — is projected to be the dominant fuel for new electricity from 2009 onward.

The fight against new coal-fired plants has been waged by environmental groups in tandem with their fight at the state, regional and national levels to cap emissions of greenhouse gases in all sectors of the economy.

A group of 10 Northeastern states, including New York, is adopting a program that would cap emissions and allow trading of pollution allotments among projects in those states.

California already has developed rules, which are being copied by New York, Vermont and 10 other states, to reduce heat-trapping gases from passenger vehicles. Those rules were endorsed in a ruling by a federal district judge in Vermont last week — in a case in which Mr. Cuomo’s staff participated.

But this is Mr. Cuomo’s most significant foray into the arena of climate change since taking over in January from Mr. Spitzer, who was one of the most high-profile occupants of the attorney general’s office.

Before he started, Mr. Cuomo acknowledged Mr. Spitzer’s formidable shadow; a Cuomo campaign ad last year said his predecessor had left “big shoes to fill” and featured people holding up the foot-measuring scales used by shoe salesmen. This year, Mr. Cuomo, who is a former federal housing secretary and son of a former governor, has himself made waves nationwide.

He shined a harsh light on close ties between some universities and student lenders, and he is now expanding Mr. Spitzer’s aggressive use of the Martin Act in new areas.

Mr. Cuomo’s office said last week that the attorney general had also invoked the Martin Act and issued subpoenas in his investigation of the oversight of the state’s $154 billion pension fund during the four-year tenure of Alan G. Hevesi as state comptroller.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Keeping Up

An article in Tuesday's Florence Morning News highlighted Progress Energy's new "Save the Watts" campaign. It is designed to increase public awareness of the electric utilities efforts to save energy.

Emerson Gower, Progress Energy's Southern region Vice President is quoted as saying:

We’ve committed that we want to reduce 1,000 megawatts of electricity demand.
One thousand megawatts is almost the size of Santee Cooper's proposed 1200+ MW pulverized coal plant, certainly larger than the demand S-C has claimed it needs by early next decade.

Which leads to the obvious question:

Why isn't Santee Cooper committed to reducing its demand by 1,000 MW?

Shouldn't South Carolina's publicly owned utility, who's mission statement is to improve the quality of life of of the people of South Carolina, be capable of doing even better than a for profit corporation whose mission is to maximize returns to its shareholders?

Monday, September 10, 2007


From the Greenville News 9/5/07 an editorial on the importance of addressing greenhouse gasses within South Carolina. (Note: the proposed Pee Dee Plant will emit an estimated 8.7 million tons of CO2 annually -- more if plans for a second unit are carried forward):

Emissions of greenhouse gases are rising faster in South Carolina than the nation as a whole, according to an analysis of emissions completed for a committee studying the impact of climate change on South Carolina. The results shouldn't be surprising given the rapid growth in South Carolina, but given growing concern about air pollution -- particularly in the Upstate -- it should be taken seriously.

Greenhouse gases come mainly from cars and electricity production generated by fossil fuels. South Carolina has both in abundance. From 1990-2005, those emissions increased 38 percent in South Carolina, compared to a 16 percent increase nationally. While the science isn't complete yet on how these gases impact the global climate, most people agree that limiting pollution is important. Several ideas on the Climate, Energy and Commerce Advisory Committee's radar screen would go a long way toward helping to mitigate pollution problems here and throughout the state.

Friday, September 7, 2007

DHEC fails the public trust

From The State, Sept 7, 2007
By ANN TIMBERLAKE - Guest Columnist

The State’s recent story about the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s regulatory negligence at the Barnwell nuclear waste dump raises a troublesome question: Why don’t the seven DHEC board members, appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, demand that staff fulfill the mission of “promoting and protecting the health of the public and the environment”?
Recently, DHEC hosted a public hearing on an air permit application submitted by coal transport giant Kinder Morgan. Kinder Morgan wants to quadruple the size of its North Charleston facility, allowing it to bring in 10 million tons of foreign coal every year, bound for dirty coal-burning plants in South Carolina and beyond.
If built, it will be one of the largest terminals of its kind on the East Coast, and result in a mountain of coal on the banks of the Cooper River 80 feet high and weighing 600,000 tons.
At the hearing, DHEC faced a buzzsaw from local residents concerned about their neighborhoods, air quality and noise. In the face of all this public concern, a DHEC staffer made a startling admission: Public input would not play a role in DHEC’s internal decision-making on the permit.
In other words, keep on talking, but you’re likely to get an expanded Kinder Morgan facility whether you like it or not. And other coal-related permits are on the way.
At a recent DHEC hearing in Florence County, Santee Cooper engineers stood shoulder to shoulder with DHEC officials and explained why Santee Cooper should be allowed to build a new pulverized coal plant on the Pee Dee River.
Every other utility in the state is moving away from coal and toward conservation. But state-owned Santee Cooper wants cheap coal energy. Officials seem blind to climate concerns, residential impacts from coal emissions or mercury in our rivers and lakes, to name but a few concerns raised by residents at these hearings.
DHEC actually appears relieved by the narrow focus of its self-imposed regulatory oversight, which officials claim prevents them from considering alternative energy sources, the actual need to build the plant, carbon emissions or anything else controversial about these projects.
The fact is, DHEC avoids taking on polluting industries. Regulators appear to believe their charge as public servants is to enable industrial operations, whatever their ilk. On the coal side, there is no evidence that DHEC has ever denied an air permit for any coal facility in South Carolina, preferring instead to serve as a referee between public and industrial interests, though invariably siding with big business.
At Barnwell, DHEC was supposed to be proactively monitoring water quality, but dropped the ball by hiding behind an old Nuclear Regulatory Commission exposure standard that is weaker than EPA’s drinking water standard. Furthermore, DHEC continues to insist that tritium pollution is the result of disposal methods prior to 1983, rather than requiring a change in the current open-trench disposal technique.
The newly released “plume maps” depict alarming well water readings at Barnwell. Even worse is the fact that DHEC suppressed the release of these maps under the guise of protecting Chem-Nuclear’s “proprietary” interests. If residential drinking water is at risk in the Savannah River basin, the ultimate cost to the public could be high, in terms of human exposure to radioactivity and financial costs to clean up the mess.
As we go forward, we need a state environmental and health agency whose first mission is to protect clean air and clean water. Merely “shaping” industrial permitting requests, in order to enable them to occur, is not the same as creating high standards of public health and safety, and then holding regulated industries to those standards.
The DHEC Board has the duty to set policy, and it needs to insist on full transparency. For too long at DHEC the tail has been wagging the dog. This board needs to insist on accountability. If DHEC is not going to stand up for the health and safety of South Carolina citizens, maybe it’s time we got rid of it and put something into place that really works to protect South Carolinians.
Ms. Timberlake is the executive director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina.

Dates for EIS Scoping Meetings Set - Plan to Attend!

Federal law requires the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) before construction of the Santee Cooper's proposed Pee Dee Coal Plant can be built. The EIS is required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and will be conducted by a consultant employed by Santee Cooper.

While this is one of many permit processes required before the project can move forward, this is an especially important stage because the EIS requires a thorough analysis of alternatives to the proposed project.

Two "scoping" meetings will be held in Conway and Florence, respectively, later this month. These meetings help determine how thorough the EIS will end up being. It is very important, for example, that the consultants are requested to explore ALL alternatives to the present proposal and that specific alternatives are explicitly proposed at these meetings. The more thorough the EIS ends up being, the more useful a tool it will be for those considering issuing a permit. For instance, the EIS may end up indicating that the proposed coal plant is NOT the right project for Florence County.

These scoping meetings are THE chance for the public to make sure the EIS is as thorough as possible.

Folks concerned about Santee Cooper's plans for a 1200 megawatt coal plant in Florence County should plan to attend one of these meetings:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Coastal Carolina University
Conway, SC

in the Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts - “Recital Hall”

Thursday, September 27, 2007
6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
South Florence High School
3200 South Irby Street
Florence, SC
in the Commons Area and the Auditorium

In addition, a website has been established for the EIS process; check it frequently to monitor this complicated process: