Saturday, September 29, 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.”

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