Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kansas Has the Right Idea!

Why Kansas killed a coal plant proposal
Environmental and economic concerns made proposal too risky


Kansas City Star
Nov. 1, 2007

Of all the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me as governor, none is greater than my obligation to protect the health and well-being of the people of Kansas.

That is why, after months of careful study and consideration, I support the recent decision of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment regarding Kansas' energy future.

This decision will not only preserve Kansans' health and uphold our moral obligation to be good stewards of this beautiful land, but will also enhance our prospects for strong and sustainable economic growth throughout our state. Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives. Kansas has great opportunities in clean energy and alternative fuels.

Clean coal is not a reality

Throughout the nation, about 50 percent of electric power is provided by coal. In Kansas, almost 75 percent of our electricity comes from coal, and we are 10th in the country for per capita production of greenhouse gas from electric plants. Right now, "clean coal" is a goal but not a reality. While there is a lot of research under way to capture carbon, or to find ways to clean carbon from the atmosphere, none has yet proved to be successful.We now know that carbon has a huge impact on the atmosphere, and global warming is very real. In a state like Kansas, where more than 20 percent of our jobs and economy involves agriculture and the land, changes in the climate and atmosphere can be devastating. Less water and hotter temperatures will result in fewer crops and less production, and that affects our state, the country and the world.

Our economy also depends on reliable, affordable electricity for all Kansans. We have solid Kansas utility companies, including Sunflower, that have provided affordable electricity to customers for decades. Recently these utilities agreed to be partners on developing alternative energy production, maximizing our wind assets. And they will be leaders in energy efficiency and conservation efforts, so we can lower our energy consumption without sacrificing economic growth.

In 2001 Sunflower Electric Cooperative applied for an air quality permit for a single 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant. The previous administration granted the permit, but the company chose to delay its building plans and the permit expired.

Then, in 2006, a new application was filed for a far larger project. Sunflower proposed to build three new coal plants, far exceeding the needs of Kansas customers. During the process, Sunflower withdrew the application for one of the plants.

Still, only 15 percent of the energy produced in the remaining two plants would be used in Kansas; the remaining 85 percent would be sold to Colorado and Texas. So Kansans would have 15 percent of the energy and 100 percent of the pollution and environmental impact of 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year. That is the equivalent of putting nearly 2 million new cars on Kansas roads in one year.

Following other states' lead

Throughout the nation, there is a growing recognition of the harm caused by carbon. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the EPA to determine the effects of carbon, and stated that the agency had the authority to impose regulations. Internationally renowned scientists produced further evidence this spring of the connection between global warming and carbon in the atmosphere. More than a dozen states, including Oklahoma, Florida and Texas, have decided in the last 18 months not to build new coal plants.

The other issue looming on the horizon is the probability that coal will become a lot more expensive in the next few years. There is a growing pressure for the federal government to develop national standards for carbon emissions, like countries throughout Europe and South America. Many states have already begun that process.

Carbon may become costly

Legislation has been recently introduced in Congress to tax the production of carbon. If that policy is adopted, utility companies and their customers will pay far more for energy that produces carbon and will spend billions on equipment to clean the atmosphere as thoroughly as possible. Building additional coal plants now is likely to create a significant economic liability for Kansas in the future.

Renewable energy developed and produced here in Kansas uses far less water, a precious natural resource, and produces permanent jobs for Kansans.

It is critical that our efforts with energy production protect the safety and security of Kansans while pursuing economic opportunities, wherever they may be.

Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, is governor of Kansas.
Governor Sanford can take a stand for a cleaner, healthier, and more responsible South Carolina too. Contact him and let him know how you feel about Santee Cooper's proposed dirty coal plant.

Governor Mark Sanford
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12267
Columbia, SC 29211
Phone: 803-734-2100
Fax: 803-734-5167

Somewhere in SC...

This image recently came to my attention. I'm not sure where it comes from, but I did look up the Bible verse and it's scary...

[Editor's Note: Though the sentiments are well worth considering, readers have pointed out that this is NOT a real image. In fact, you can create your own "church sign image" at this website. So, make your own and share it with us!]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Another sixteen tons on the coal pile"

I thought y'all might enjoy this funny (in a serious way) video put together by the folks over at the Coastal Conservation League -- "Global Warming Guy." The tune is infectious and the message is right on. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Knowledge is Power"

Check the "Pee Dee News Coverage" section of the blog for the latest stuff on this dirty coal plant -- a bunch of recent articles have been posted. Read and decide for yourself!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mercury Op Ed in The Sun News

Mercury pollution neglected by state agency
By Ann Timberlake
Mon, Nov. 26, 2007

Perhaps the most amazing tidbit that came out of the Charleston Post and Courier's recent series on mercury pollution in the Palmetto State was that the Department of Health and Environmental Control owns a sophisticated $250,000 blood scanner that has been taken off the shelf, plugged in and used to test someone for mercury contamination once in the three years DHEC has owned it.

South Carolina is considered one of the mercury pollution "hotspots" of the country, where 17 of 41 people who regularly eat freshwater fish were found to have high levels of methyl mercury. The element, a pollutant from dirty coal smokestacks, is absorbed by micro-organisms and fish. Today, along more than 1,700 miles of state waterways, you can't eat some species of fish for health reasons. And you are warned to limit significantly your intake of others.

So you would think this high-tech machine bought with Homeland Security money would be in the field on some kind of "Mobile Mercury Testing Van" to check people's blood. Nope. It just sits in a lab in Columbia, according to the newspaper, along with another one that hasn't yet been assembled.

These idle machines symbolize the inept job being done by DHEC in working to combat the risks of mercury in people across the state. For those who have been following DHEC's passive approach to protecting the public's health, it's not a surprise.

It's time for the agency to consider some proactive solutions:

Test people for mercury poisoning. DHEC should get at least one of those machines out on the road to S.C. communities and known mercury hotspots. If DHEC regulators test fish, why can't they test humans?

Post warnings on our waterways. Fish consumption advisories for mercury are posted on DHEC's Web site but not at boat landings and popular fishing holes. DHEC has a responsibility to warn folks in reasonable ways, and the first step toward reducing mercury is informing the public of the danger. Warnings also need to be posted for all the locations where water pollution, mainly high fecal coliform levels, makes swimming unsafe.

Enforce the law. Instead of handing out a draft air permit allowing Santee Cooper to pump 138 pounds of toxic mercury into the air each year (and just one pound of methyl mercury is enough to contaminate 500,000 pounds of fish tissue), DHEC should enforce last year's Supreme Court ruling that classifies carbon dioxide as a pollutant. This plant will emit 8.7 million tons of carbon dioxide a year into the atmosphere, posing a threat not only to our planet, but to Santee Cooper's rate payers. Federal carbon legislation is on the way and will significantly raise the cost of coal. There is no indication that Santee Cooper took these costs into account when submitting their proposal. But DHEC can and should require Santee Cooper to do a true cost analysis of the plant.

In South Carolina, our low rates belie huge and hidden costs, including higher bills than the national average and human health costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite their claims, Santee Cooper is not using the best available control technology. As they should have done originally, DHEC needs to suspend the draft air permit until after the Army Corps of Engineers has completed its environmental impact statement.

This may seem like a push for more government regulation, but it's not. DHEC is our state agency, and Santee Cooper is our public utility. Both are owned and paid for by the people of this state, and both are failing their mission to improve and protect the lives of South Carolinians.

The writer is executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that serves as the political voice of the conservation community .

Morning News Coverage of Proposed Dirty Coal Plant

"Both sides ready for next step"
Comment period will end Dec. 7, then agency will decide which issues valid

By Jamie Durant
Saturday, Nov 24, 2007

Although the public comment period for the proposed Santee Cooper coal plant doesn’t end until Dec. 7, many people are gearing up for the next stage in the battle on both sides of the issue.

According to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Thom Berry, the next step in the process will be for DHEC to review the comments gathered during the public comment period and determine which ones raise valid issues that still need to be considered before moving forward with their decision.

He said at that point, any issues deemed unresolved or unaddressed will be sent to Santee Cooper officials for a chance to be reviewed and rectified by the company.

“We will then sit down and begin the deliberative process internally to decide whether to approve or deny the permit application,” Berry said.

He said he does expect there to be litigation, regardless of the decision DHEC’s governing board recommends. He said there also is a process for appealing the decision.

“Once we publish the agency decision, that will begin an appeal time table. Anyone who wishes to appeal the agency’s decision may do so,” Berry said. “(They) will go before the DHEC governing board first, (then) the state administrative law court, the state court of appeals and (finally) the state Supreme Court.”

But some people aren’t happy with the way the process currently is laid out.

“We don’t believe that they are going to do anything more than they have done for 40 years, and that is pander to big government and big industry,” said Mike King, spokesman for the Pee Dee River Watchers, an environmental group focused primarily on the Great Pee Dee River.

King said he is convinced the organization isn’t looking out for the interests of the people living in the area.“We, frankly, believe that they are a rubber-stamp outfit,” he said.

But Florence County Councilman Ken Ard said he supports the coal plant, and he thinks DHEC will do what is best for the people of Pamplico and Johnsonville, two towns that will be directly affected by the addition of a 600 megawatt coal-fired generation facility to be located along the Great Pee Dee River.

“I am supportive of it, understanding there are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said. “I live there, I grew up there, I represent that area on council, so I guess my job is to support policy and things that would benefit that district and to not support things that would not benefit that district.”

He said he’s understanding of the many environmental groups that have been protesting the coal plant. But, he said, he feels the plant would be the best thing for the community.

“I would never be supportive of anything — I don’t care if it was 10,000 jobs — that would harm my constituency, the environment or the river,” Ard said. “I’ve had a lot of questions for Santee Cooper. I’ve had a lot of interaction with people that I trust and respect that don’t even have anything to do with Santee Cooper, and they have given me satisfactory answers, and I don’t have any problem supporting the plant.”

Ard said he agreed the environmentalists do have some valid questions regarding the issues surrounding the coal plant, but he hopes they refrain from using fear to get people to side with them against the coal plant.

Recently, in the town of Pamplico, there has been a dispute regarding the signatures on a petition in favor of the coal plant presented to DHEC officials at the public hearing earlier this month. Some members of the community who oppose the coal plant said they feel the signatures presented on the petition could not have been from the area they were said to have been collected from, since many of the people living in a five mile radius of the plant’s proposed site are opposed to the facility.

Local environmentalists have requested to see a copy of the petition through the Freedom of Information Act. King said the petition — which has 569 names of people opposing the plant on another petition — already is available for public viewing.

“We are not happy with the lack of transparency of this so-called petition that (Pamplico) Mayor (Gene) Gainey presented at the last draft air public hearing,” King said. “It is simply not true, because our people who live at the plant site went around on their bikes and collected signatures (for the anti-plant petition).”

Friday, November 23, 2007

Greater York County, Part II

World-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen was in the Charlotte area last week. He was there to make the connection between new coal plants and global warming, suggesting that we can't afford to gamble on this old-fashioned technology that is incapable of controlling its CO2 emissions. Dr. Hansen has spoken out against Duke Energy's proposed 800 MW supercritical coal plant in Cliffside, North Carolina (near the SC border in the Upstate).

Dr. Hansen heads the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA and is also a professor at the Earth and Environmental Sciences School at Columbia University. He has been warning folks about the threat of global warming since way back in the 1980s -- unfortunately for the earth's climate time has only vindicated his research and projections.

From the Charlotte Observer:

At 66, one of the nation's most prominent climate-change scientists says he's more interested in finding solutions than placing blame for a warming planet.

One key solution, physicist James Hansen said Friday: No more coal-fired power plants like the one Duke Energy plans to expand 50 miles west of Charlotte....

Duke estimates Cliffside will release 9.7 million tons of carbon dioxide a year once a new 800-megawatt boiler is added. Hansen argues that energy efficiency could replace the need to expand the plant....

The problem with coal is that there's so much of it, Hansen said. That means plants like Cliffside could spew carbon dioxide for decades once oil and natural gas are depleted.

"The physics of the problem tells us that we cannot put the carbon from all that coal into the atmosphere," he said. "It just hasn't sunk into policy makers."


"We can spread the blame around," he said, "but the people who are going to suffer are our children and grandchildren."

Read more about Hansen's comments in the other Carolina's paper. What Hansen says about Cliffside is also true for the Pee Dee plant.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to all Readers!

Here's a list devised by Climate Progress. I'm sure we could generate our own list (that's what the comments are for). For Christmas, I'm asking DHEC & Santee Cooper to go back to the drawing board! Will I get a lump of coal in my stocking instead?

Five Climate Change Events To Be Thankful For
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 11.21.07


Climate Progress notes: "Let this Thanksgiving be a time for reflection, as there are several events within the past year worth reminiscing. These five occurrences have increased awareness on climate change and moved the U.S. closer to achieving targeted greenhouse gas reductions."

1. Al Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Prize.
2. The 1st CAFE standard in 22 years was passed in the Senate. (This is perhaps premature)
3. All the democratic presidential frontrunners have proposed a comprehensive energy plan, asking for large carbon dioxide emission reductions. (but some still love coal)
4. The 4th IPCC Synthesis report was a blunt and urgent call for action. (Though Its not pretty)
5. Public Opinion is shifting. (3/4 of Americans would make lifestyle changes or pay energy and carbon taxes? Gotta be a rogue poll)

Climate Progress

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Greater York County, Part I

Our neighbor to the north has been making coal-related news lately. For those who haven't been following the rapid energy policy developments in North Carolina, Duke Energy's proposed 800 MW coal unit in Cliffside, NC (just over the border from Gaffney, SC) has figured prominently.

Originally, Duke Energy applied for two 800 MW coal units. A coalition of concerned citizens contended that the units were not needed, would emit tons of pollutants threatening public health and emit an unacceptable volume of greenhouse gases into a warming already warming climate system. Sound familiar?

N.C. regulators denied Duke one of the two units and conditioned the remaining unit on Duke investing 1% of its revenues in efficiency programs.

Now instead of issuing an air permit for the single 800 MW unit, NC regulators are requiring Duke to reevaluate the impact of the mercury emissions its plant would inevitably release. From the Charlotte Observer:

N.C. regulators, responding to public opposition, say they will re-evaluate how much toxic mercury a proposed Duke Energy power plant expansion may waft Charlotte's way.

Duke needs only an air permit before beginning work on a $1.8 billion addition to its Cliffside plant in Rutherford County.

The N.C. Division of Air Quality had agreed with Duke that an analysis of "best available" mercury controls wasn't needed because the plant's design meets federal standards.

Opponents said that decision could mean the plant won't be as clean as technology can make it.

The air agency, which would issue the plant's permit, said this week it will now ask Duke to conduct a more in-depth analysis.
Opponents of Santee Cooper's similar proposal here should take heart. If North Carolina can do it, certainly South Carolina can!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Thank You," Santee Cooper ?!

According to the South Carolina Statehouse Report, concerned citizens in this state have Santee Cooper to thank. Below is an excerpt from Andy Brack's commentary on the phenomenon:

Environmental movement getting new head of steam
By Andy Brack, Publisher

NOV. 11, 2007 - - South Carolina's environmental movement has picked up an unexpected ally: Santee Cooper, the very public utility it is battling with over a proposed coal-burning power plant.

The utility's aggressive push to build the billion-dollar plant in the Kingsburg area of Florence County has galvanized fishermen, rural residents, conservationists and long-time liberal environmentalists into a coalition with, ahem, new energy.

Florence resident Peggy Brown, natural resources director for the state League of Women Voters, said the planned power plant has brought together different groups and people.

"It has united them to make them stronger," she noted.

Dana Beach, head of the SC Coastal Conservation League, said the unity is driven by the plant and has allowed conservation organizations to broaden their reach.

"It has been the crucible for education and activism that we've needed around the state," he said. After listing several groups opposing the plant, he added, "We're all working very closely together to not only oppose the plant, but to develop an agenda to solve the problem."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Down South

The Northeast, the West, the Midwest... I guess that leaves us.

From the "It's Getting Hot in Here" blog:

Today the Governors of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, Ohio, South Dakota and the Premier of Manitoba signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord at the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) Energy Security and Climate Change Summit (See here, here and here).

The Accord will:
  • Establish greenhouse gas reduction targets and timeframes consistent with MGA member states’ targets;
  • Develop a market-based and multi-sector cap-and-trade mechanism to help achieve those reduction targets;
  • Establish a system to enable tracking, management, and crediting for entities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Develop and implement additional steps as needed to achieve the reduction targets, such as a low-carbon fuel standards and regional incentives and funding mechanisms.

Indiana, Ohio and South Dakota are observing participants in the Accord, which means that the reduction system will include the three states but they will not be bound by the reduction targets. In addition to the Accord, the Governors of Nebraska and North Dakota joined the rest of the MGA in establishing the Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform which sets regional goals for advancing energy efficiency, promoting biobased products, producing renewable electricity, and developing advance coal and carbon capture and storage technology.

This is the third major regional climate agreement in the country, following the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in the Northeast and the Western Climate Initiative. Between these three regional agreements, twenty US states, and two Canadian Provinces have adopted plans for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, with another seven states and two provinces as observers to the agreements. This means that well over HALF of the states in the United States are part of regional greenhouse gas reduction agreements. Almost half of the states in the United States have passed Renewable Electricity Standards (RES) or goals for state renewable energy use. Over 500 mayors have signed the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Another one (two) bites the dust!

Three dozen plus and counting can't be wrong. The latest to join the honor role are Orlando, Florida and Boise, Idaho. Pamplico, South Carolina can't be far behind, right?

In both cases the utilities themselves made the prudent decision to pull the plug. How long will we have to wait until that kind of responsible behavior is exhibited in South Carolina?

In Orlando, utility leaders wisely understood that impending CO2 regulation makes coal an extremely expensive gamble that would have hurt households and industry both in the pocketbook. Can we afford to ignore this in South Carolina?

In Idaho, utility execs balked at both the high cost of constructing a new coal plant AND the unacceptable environmental impact of coal. Can coal be a good investment for South Carolina if it isn't for Idaho?

Ever wonder why the national pro-coal lobby has descended on our State? Why the same pro-coal people frequent this site? Its because they are losing ground every day. People in positions of responsibility around the country are stepping up and making the the right decisions to protect their environment, their health and their economy.

They know South Carolina is going to be the next state to say "NO" to this dirty, unhealthy, expensive, and risky proposition.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bad "CARMA" for S-C

I recently heard about this new site while listening to the radio. Its appropriately dubbed CARMA and it is designed to make tracking CO2 emissions from power plants easy and useful. CARMA “reveals the carbon emissions of more than 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies in every country on Earth.” From the CARMA website:

CARMA provides the world’s most detailed and comprehensive information on carbon emissions resulting from the production of electricity. Power sector emissions make up 25% of the global total, 40% of carbon emissions in the United States, and are a primary cause of global warming....

Our goal is to put anyone in the world just a few clicks away from complete, tailored information about carbon emissions for any plant, any company, and any locale. CARMA provides data for all power facilities and companies, whether they are entirely coal-fueled or completely reliant on renewable energy sources. We hope that CARMA will equip millions of concerned global citizens – consumers, investors, political leaders, managers, professionals, and community organizers – with the information they need to take action and build a low-carbon future....

Our own professional experience, as well as plentiful research, has shown that public disclosure of critical information can have powerful effects on environmental performance. We believe that the time is ripe for rapid reduction of carbon emissions, and CARMA is intended to be our contribution to this effort.

So, how does South Carolina fair in terms of CARMA? What about Santee Cooper?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bad Credit

Santee Cooper Preps Bonds To Fund Coal Units
The South Carolina Public Service Authority, also known as Santee Cooper, plans to sell $340 million in tax-free bonds to bankroll developments, including its planned 600 MW Pee Dee and 580 MW Cross Unit 4 coal-fired facilities. About 70% of the utility's debt is tax-exempt, says Jeff Armfield, treasurer in Moncks Corner, S.C., which it can issue by virtue of being state-owned.
About $196 million will go toward the Cross Unit 4, now under construction and expected to come onl ine 2009 at an existing pulverized coal facility in Berkeley County. About $60 million will be spent on preliminary work for Pee Dee near Kingsburg, withconstruction beginning sometime next year. A further $28 million will be used for environmental studies and the remainder on general corporate purposes. The sale will be split in two to target investors with different appetites.
The retail bo nd piece is set for July 17 and the sale to institutional investors for July 18. Armfield says the notes should land coupons in the 5% range, and may be priced slightly higher on the retail side where investors are hungrier for yield. Serial maturities ranging from one to 20 years make up $191 million of the offering. A $50 million 25-year tranche, $46 million 30-year tranche and $39 million 35-year tranche round out the issue.
Citigroup and Goldman Sachs are leads managers, with co-managers Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Santee Cooper recently went through a process of evaluating existing relationship banks and potential new ones, which Armfield says he had wanted to do for the past few years to make sure it was using the most effective configuration. However, it ended up sticking with the same group. The notes are rated Aa by Moody's Investors Service.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"It's the economy, stupid!"

The latest tactic of the pro-coal lobby in South Carolina is to gloss over the minimal jobs creation impacts of the Pee Dee coal plants (i.e. 80 jobs) while asserting that if we don't build these plants, our state will lose manufacturing jobs to China. Of course, no evidence has been provided in support of these fear-mongering claims.

Once again, however, advocates for efficiency and renewables have a positive, rather than a negative, message.

Witness this report released last week on the economic impact of the renewable energy and efficiency industries in the United States:

[In] 2006 the combined [Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency] industry generated nearly a trillion dollars in industry sales, 8.5 million new jobs, more than $100 billion in industry profits, and more than $150 billion in increased federal, state, and local government tax revenues. In addition, [Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency] reduce the risks associated with fuel price volatility and can facilitate an industrial boom, create millions of jobs, foster new technology, revitalize the manufacturing sector, enhance economic growth, and help reduce the trade and budget deficits.
How many jobs could this industry create? The report goes on to find that this industry could create over 20 million jobs in this country by 2030. And this is their moderate scenario. Read for yourself to discover what an aggressive commitment to clean energy would mean for employment in our nation.

Friday, November 9, 2007

News Coverage of DHEC Public Hearing

Charleston Post & Courier

“Meeting Held on New Coal Plant”
by Tony Bartelme
November 9, 2007

PAMPLICO — Nearly 400 people from across the area converged on this tiny town's high school gym Thursday night, but not to watch the Hannah-Pamplico Raiders play basketball.

They came to root for or against Santee Cooper's plan to build a $1 billion coal-fired power plant nearby, a plant some say is a public health threat and others say is critical to keeping the lights on for half the state's residents and industries.

Before Santee Cooper can move forward with the plant, it needs a permit from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Last month, DHEC approved a draft permit.

Thursday night's public hearing was the only one DHEC has scheduled for this project, and the parking lot around the high school filled quickly as the sun set. Employees of Santee Cooper and two of its biggest customers, Alcoa and Nucor, arrived in a chartered bus, irking a group of environmentalists.

"That's what I call stacking the deck," said Mike King, head of Pee Dee River Watchers — a group opposed to the plant.

"I hope they're getting overtime," said Ben Gregg, executive director of the S.C. Wildlife Federation.

Moments before the hearing began, Gregg, King and other opponents held a news conference, demanding that DHEC suspend the draft permit until the agency tests people in the area for mercury contamination.

They cited a recent series by The Post and Courier that identified mercury hotspots in the state and showed how some of the worst form a triangle of mercury contamination in the area where Santee Cooper wants to build the new plant.

The newspaper also paid to test people who eat fish in this area and along the Edisto River and found that frequent fish-eaters have unusually high levels of mercury in their bodies.

"These findings raise serious questions about the impact of this plant on a human population already at risk for mercury poisoning," said Ann Stoeckman, a biology professor at Francis Marion University.

But Santee Cooper supporters far outnumbered opponents. Many pro-plant attendees wore stickers with "Pee Dee" written in green. Some were still in their utility company uniforms.
Eighty-four people signed up to comment. Many were with Santee Cooper, Alcoa, Nucor and other area industries and said a coal-fired power plant was the best way to keep rates down and jobs in America. Representatives from the state's electric co-ops also turned out in force.

Pamplico Mayor Gene Gainey presented a petition signed by 1,076 area residents who want the plant built. Santee Cooper estimates the project will create 1,400 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs at the plant if it opens as planned in 2012.

Gainey said the community has lost 3,000 mill jobs over the past several years and sees the power plant as a chance to reinvigorate the area's economy. He sees new businesses coming to the area, lured by the plant and a widened four-lane highway connecting the town with Florence and places east and south.

"I'm trying to take care of this town," Gainey said. "In my opinion, if we didn't get this plant, we'd still be stalemate just sitting down here in the country like we've been for years."
Gainey dismissed concerns over pollution, especially from poisonous mercury. "I think it's overblown." He said he's met extensively with Santee Cooper and is assured that the plant will exceed all pollution requirements.

King was the first to speak out against the plant and the first speaker to have the microphone taken away after he went over his allotted three minutes.

"The problem is mercury, and it's already here," he said, citing The Post and Courier's findings that DHEC has used its advanced blood-testing equipment to test only one member of the public for mercury. He urged DHEC to "turn the page" and deny the permit. He said he has a petition signed by 469 people against the plant.

The public can submit written comments to DHEC through Dec. 7. After that, the agency will sift through comments and possibly ask Santee Cooper to respond. Then a project engineer will decide whether to issue the final permit. But that's not likely to be the end of the debate.
"We have no illusions," said Thom Berry, DHEC spokesman. "No matter what the decision is, we figure this will end up in court."

Florence Morning News
“Power Plant Hearing Draws Crowd”
by Jamie Durant
November 9, 2007

PAMPLICO — Concerned residents and local conservation groups packed the gymnasium of Hannah-Pamplico High School on Thursday night to voice their opinions on the proposed Santee Cooper coal-burning power plant to S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control officials.

Although the people in attendance were encouraged to present their concerns about the coal plant, DHEC officials weren’t permitted to respond to any of the issues raised in the public hearing.

“We have to follow a very rigid set of rules,” DHEC spokesman Thom Berry said. “We cannot respond to questions. We can only take in comments from the public. Once the public comment period ends Dec. 7, we will then get all of those comments back in and we will respond to everyone.”

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.

Berry said there won’t be any decisions in the matter for a number of months while procedures are followed.

He also addressed the concerns about the additional mercury the proposed coal plant would add to the Great Pee Dee River, which is already under advisory regarding the mercury content of the fish caught in the river.

“That’s one of the things we always take into consideration, not just here, but (for) any plant, anywhere in the state,” Berry said. “One of the things we look at is, how does this fit in to the already existing conditions? Because our goal, and the EPA's (Environmental Protection Agency’s) goal is no detrimental loss to the quality of the environment.”

But taking the mercury content into consideration isn’t enough to appease many of the conservationists protesting the plant.

“We believe that the (Great) Pee Dee River is already heavily burdened with mercury, as a matter of fact we know it is,” Mike King, representative of the Pee Dee River Watchers, said.

“We think it is unconscionable for DHEC to already approve a draft air permit for this plant, hastily, even before the environmental impact statement is done by the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers.”

King and other members of the conservation groups who gathered in front of the school with signs telling the dangers of coal-based power, said a busload of Santee Cooper employees were bused to the event to tilt the balance of power in the auditorium.

“They were bused in, all the Santee Cooper employees have filled up the auditorium, courtesy of the South Carolina state taxpayers,” King said. “They are paid minions of Santee Cooper.”

Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter denied having his employees brought to the hearing en masse. “That’s incorrect,” he said.

Santee Cooper spokeswoman Laura Varn said although there were no buses involved, Santee Cooper employees did make an effort to carpool to the event.

Moments after the comments portion of the evening opened, Carter took the stage to reassure the crowd about Santee Cooper’s commitment to providing affordable, responsible power to the Pee Dee.“

I think this is a good opportunity for Santee Cooper to come out and remind people of how seriously we take our job,” he said.

Carter said that despite the opposition to a coal-based energy source, he doesn’t foresee any problems in bringing the proposed plant to fruition.

“I don’t see any stumbling block, because this facility is being designed and built with the best control technology in the world,” he said.

Lou Green, executive vice president of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina, said even with consideration of renewable resources and valiant energy efficiency efforts, there would still be a need for the proposed plant.

“We don’t think (that’s the case),” he said. “We know.”

Green said that although newer, possibly cleaner, forms of energy are being discussed, they are years away from being economical for consumers.

“We have to do something between now and the time when we can use more renewable fuels and save for energy to provide the energy that is needed,” he said.Green said the studies researching the need for the power plant often are misused by many of the groups opposing the plant.

“They are mischaracterizing the studies,” he said. “They look at some of the most optimistic numbers about how much renewable energy we can have without looking at what is practically achievable and cost effective.

“The idea that we’re going to shift immediately to renewable resources is just unrealistic. That fact that we’ve got to use more of them and be more conservative is absolutely on target. It’s just a matter of timing.”

Terry Cook, who lives along the stretch of the river where the proposed plant is to be built, said she thinks the plant could have ill effects on her health and property.

“I came to speak to try to stop this coal plant from coming to my neighborhood,” she said. “In my backyard will be a landfill and an ash pond if this plant goes in. I’ve got grandchildren. There’s a lot I want to show them — one of them is not a coal-fired power plant.”

Associated Press, Myrtle Beach Sun News
“Coal Plant Fired Up More Debate”
by Graeme Moore
November 8, 2007

It was a full house Thursday night and a lot more debate over Santee Cooper's proposed coal-fired power plant in lower Florence County.

Around 300 people showed up to Hannah-Pamplico High School's gymnasium for the public hearing held by the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Of those, more than 80 signed up to speak. Each person was given three minutes to comment on the proposal.

Before Santee Cooper can move forward, DHEC must issue what's generally referred to as an "air" permit. The regulatory body has already issued a draft permit, but must grant a final version before construction could begin.

And as the case has been, DHEC continues to hear resistance on the proposal.

"South Carolina is not a third-world country. We think we ought to have clean air, and we believe we ought to have clean water, and this proposal is not going in that direction," said Ben Gregg, executive director of the SC Wildlife Federation.

But Santee Cooper answers concerns like that by saying its facility would be one of the cleanest in the world. It promises state-of-the-art technology that would reduce potentially hazardous pollutants.

But that's not the only hurdle Santee Cooper must cross. It will also have to gain permission from the Army Corps of Engineers which is conducting an Environmental Impact Study. Some say that could take years to finish.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Meeting Tonight!

DHEC Public Hearing on the Pee Dee plants TONIGHT in Pamplico, SC.


Help stop this:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Coal's Big Guns Turned On South Carolinians

So who are these "Americans for Balanced Energy Choices" anyway, and why are they so concerned about the future of coal in South Carolina?

Are you surprised that they are a fake "grass-roots" organization fronting for a coal industry trade organization (the similarly innocuously titled "Center for Energy and Economic Development")?

No? How about that its president is a registered lobbyist for the coal industry or that its executive director is a former employee of the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals (which presides over mountaintop removal mining in that state).

Read more about them here and here. Here's a transcript from PBS's MacNeil/Lehrer program in which ABEC's executive director squares off with Jeff Goodel, author of Big Coal.

Interested in some of ABEC's past work? Here is a particularly heinous example in which they exploit children to communicate their "truths" about coal. I find it hard to stomach, and agree with this gentlemen's assessment of these guys.

But perhaps there is a silver lining to Big Coal turning its big guns on the people of South Carolina. ABEC's has recently deployed in Nevada and Pennsylvania as well, two states where big coal feels like it is losing some ground as coal plant proposals meet increasingly fierce opposition.

The same must be true here, thanks to a truly grass-roots network of folks opposed to the Pee Dee plant that is growing everyday. ABEC's sudden appearance is proof of the popularity of the anti-Pee Dee plant message.

Now Santee Cooper is calling in reinforcements from these out-of-state spin doctors.

South Carolinians won't fall for it.

Methane from Santee Cooper

Two pieces on Santee Cooper and their proposed coal plant appear in the Post and Courier today. One is a recap of the issue, in preparation for the DHEC hearing tomorrow in Pamplico, the other is a Q&A with S-C Sultan Lonnie Carter.

In the Q&A and the article, Lonnie Carter reels off a series of chestnutts like these:

"In some ways it can be a little bit gaudy to think that we can actually affect the climate, actually change it or stop something that's going on."
Gaudy? That says it all doesn't it? No matter that the vast majority of the worlds geologists, climatologists, and meteorologists agree that global warming is happening and that burning fossil fuels is the cause. And, heck, even if they are right, we can't do anything about it, so we might as well burn a bunch of coal! People who think otherwise are just gaudy.
"I don't know [if utilities contribute to global warming]. If you listen to the scientists and how they parse out the data, the utility is a portion. Transportation is another good-sized portion, and then you have the residential and industrial side. They aren't hugely different in terms of percentages."
According to an inventory of SC's GHG emissions, electricity accounts for over 36% -- the #1 contributor. I comes down to this: Lonnie Carter & Santee Cooper just doesn't think there is anything wrong w/ coal. He's not worried about its negative consequences for the health, the environment or the economy of the state.
"I didn't coin this, but we're the Saudi Arabia of coal. We have so much coal available to us. It's a natural resource. We get over 50 percent of our current electricity from coal. We can't abandon coal. It's got to be part of our future for those reasons."
This is the best proof yet that S-C is behind the recent coal marketing going on in this state; this mirrors exactly the "Americans for Balanced Energy Choices" talking points. S-C is nothing if not "on message." In fact, the size of RECOVERABLE coal reserves is far from certain. But maybe the work of the National Academy of Sciences is too "rabid." Instead let's rely figures produced by the National Mining Association.

Are people willing to accept the high toll of mining increasingly difficult-to-access coal? Mountain top removal and mining accidents are two examples. Also, east-coast utilites like Santee Cooper routinely IMPORT coal from foreign nations like Venezuela. So, its hardly "America's fuel" in practice. Still, Lonnie Carter would have us emulate Saudi Arabia; he makes a good Sheik of what amounts to a little rogue Emirate (i.e. Santee Cooper) within the state of South Carolina. Big Coal, indeed.
"Remember what I said before, every carbon-based fuel, even wood and biofuels, all those things, have carbon emissions."
True, except that carbon emissions from biofuels don't contribute to global warming, since the embodied carbon in biofuels is part of the globe's carbon cycle, whereas the emissions from coal, by virtue of the fuel being dug out of the earth and burned, is not. If Lonnie Carter doesn't know this, then why are biofuels part of S-C's goal to produce 40% of its power from non-GHG sources by 2020?
"I've heard there are more greenhouse gases from livestock on the globe than any other source."
Totally absurd. There's no question that current livestock husbandry has a significant impact on the environment, including GHG emissions. They are not the leading source of GHG emissions, however. To suggest otherwise is brilliant, but wrong.
"Don't expect me as a utility executive to arbitrarily tax my customers for a problem that the rest of the world needs to deal with."
So what about the impact of a carbon tax or a cap and trade system on the rates of Santee Cooper's customers after Santee Cooper arbitrarily insists on building three more coal-burning units in South Carolina? We are talking hundreds of million dollars annually using conservative estimates. Who will pay? Not Santee Cooper. If that is not a tax on Santee Cooper's customers, I don't know what is. Or if you don't believe the U.S. will ever get around to regulating carbon (wishful thinking), how about raising rates on your customers to build new generation so that you can lower rates even further for your industrial customers. Is that taxing your customers? S-C is alledged to have done just that in a recently filed class action law suit.
"A lot is said about where mercury comes from in our waters. The information I get from the EPA is that it's not coming from U.S. power plants. According to the information they put out is that power plants contribute only 1% percent of the mercury."
Does the EPA really contend this? (If so, someone please reference the study). Is China responsible for the contamination of the Pee Dee rivers? I refer you back to the excellent story on mercury produced by the P&C: "Coal, Power and Poison."
"When we normally talk about emissions, you talk about tons, but when you talk about mercury, you talk about pounds, because we're talking about small quantities."
One drop of mercury (about the amount in a thermometer) falling in rain a year can contaminate fish in a 20-acre lake, and one pound of mercury is enough to contaminate 500,000 fish. Most of SC's waterways are already contaminated with mercury. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Carter goes on to evade direct questions on the following topics: why have you chosen coal for the Pee Dee project? Have you examined the economic risks of coal in a carbon-constrained economy? to Santee Cooper? to your rate-payers? Shouldn't we be concerned about the build up of Mercury in SC's water? Doesn't S-C have a moral/ethical responsibility with respect to the health of South Carolinians?

Just add these to the list of unanswered questions...

Anti-Coal Flyer from Morning News

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Speak Out Against the Santee Cooper Coal Plant: When, Where, Why & How

When & Where:
DHEC Public Hearing, Thursday November 8 @ 6pm
Hannah-Pamplico High School Gym
West side of Highway 51 (Pamplico Hwy)
Map and directions

DHEC is giving you the chance to comment on the proposed Santee Cooper coal plant to be built south of Pamplico on the Great Pee Dee River. This plant will emit 138 pounds of mercury. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin linked to human illnesses like birth defects, nerve disorders and heart failure. Mercury becomes toxic methyl mercury in our rivers. One pound of mercury is enough to contaminate 500,000 fish. People and particularly children eating contaminated fish are at risk. According to a recent article in the Post and Courier newspaper between Conway and Florence there are mercury “hot spots” that form a “Mercury Triangle” of contaminated fish around the proposed coal plant. All three rivers near the proposed site, the Little Pee Dee, the Lynches and the Great Pee Dee are contaminated with mercury according to DHEC.

Santee Cooper currently is responsible for over one third of the state’s mercury pollution as represented by its top 25 polluters. Four of Santee Cooper’s existing coal plants are listed by EPA in the 25 most polluting plants or industries in South Carolina with respect to mercury.

There is no cure for mercury poisoning, except to stop exposure to it.

This proposed coal plant will not only pollute our air and water with mercury; it will emit 7500 tons of soot-forming SO2 and 900 tons of particulate matter. These emissions will negatively impact children suffering from asthma and adults with heart and lung ailments. Every year, emissions from coal plants lead to numerous premature deaths in South Carolina.

Come to the hearing on Thursday night and express your opinion on DHEC's decision to issue a draft permit for this unacceptable coal plant.

If you are unable to attend Thursday’s public hearing you can send you email your comments to: or mail your comments

Joe Eller
S.C. DHEC Bureau of Air Quality
2600 Bull St.
Columbia, SC 29201

For some facts, figures and questions about Santee Cooper's dirty coal plant, and DHEC's decision to issue a draft permit, that might be useful if you attend the meeting or plan to write comments, click here.

Mayors Step Up

This advertisement appeared in the paper yesterday. Beats the coal ads (see this past post) that Santee Cooper has running all over the state with the help of "Americans for Balanced Energy Choices." (That's Orwellian doublethink if I've ever heard it; coal already is 50% of our nation's energy mix; that's hardly balanced). Click the image above for a larger image of the ad that appeared yesterday. How does this square w/ Santee Cooper's plans to go on a greenhouse gas emitting spree over the next 10 years (4 coal plants, 18 million tons of CO2)? Inquiring minds want to know.

News coverage from Rock Hill ( and Hilton Head (

Sunday, November 4, 2007

SC Mayors Urge Action to Reduce GHGs

On Friday over 100 mayors representing over 1 million South Carolinians released an open letter to the presidential candidates. The message: SC voters want candidates to address climate change and provide solutions.

Coverage of the event is everywhere: Savannah, Augusta, Hilton Head, Beaufort, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Columbia , Rock Hill, Charlotte, etc.

You can also listen to a national radio program on "climate on the campaign trail" that includes mention of the Mayors' initiative here.

Here's hoping the candidates listen.

And others too.

If over 1,000,000 South Carolinians think that climate change must be addressed at the highest level of our government, perhaps they would not be too pleased to learn of Santee Cooper's mad rush to build 4 coal plants within 10 years (two already permitted in Berkeley County; two proposed on the banks of the Pee Dee), adding nearly 18 million tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every year, the equivalent of a small country...

Friday, November 2, 2007

Step It Up in Columbia Tomorrow: No New Coal

Step It Up 2007 is a campaign organized by people all around the country, calling for leadership on global warming. Our goal is to empower the grassroots climate movement to take action locally by calling for national change. One of the core messages of this movement is that no new coal plants are necessary in this country. Watch the below video to see and hear some of the reasons why.

Tomorrow, Saturday, November 3rd, Step It Up events will be occurring all over the nation. Given Santee Cooper's plan to build two coal burners on the banks of the Pee Dee, it's appropriate that a Step It Up event will be held in our state capital tomorrow. (Details below). Consider coming out to "step it up" on global warming and the Pee Dee plant tomorrow.

Step It Up South Carolina

Columbia, SC

November 3, 2007 10:00AM to 12:00PM

Hosted by John Hartz

Event Description:
Presidential candidates are making regular visits to South Carolina. We have a historic opportunity to let them know how we feel about global warming. Join us for a workshop on how to engage the candidates on this critical issue. Workshop sponsors include the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Conservation Voters of South Carolina.


1314 Lincoln St


The Luther Lee Building is located on the block behind the Blue Marlin Restaurant. It is an historic brick building on the north side of Lincoln Street.

Register here

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sunflower Seeds in South Carolina?

Of course SC DHEC has issued a draft permit for the Pee Dee "Energy Campus" (coal has to be enlightened somewhere, I suppose). As a reminder, DHEC is holding a public hearing "to allow interested persons the opportunity to express concerns and provide comments regarding the proposed plant and the air quality documents that have been drafted" a week from today in Pamplico. Click here for details.

Which leads to this question: what do DHEC and Kansas have in common? Nothing yet, but that's why I've been meaning to post on Kansas for a couple weeks now. Why Kansas of all places you ask? From the Washington Post (10/16/07)

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment yesterday became the first government agency in the United States to cite carbon dioxide emissions as the reason for rejecting an air permit for a proposed coal-fired electricity generating plant, saying that the greenhouse gas threatens public health and the environment.
The decision marks a victory for environmental groups that are fighting proposals for new coal-fired plants around the country. It may be the first of a series of similar state actions inspired by a Supreme Court decision in April that asserted that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide should be considered pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

In the past, air permits, which are required before construction of combustion facilities, have been denied over emissions such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury. But Roderick L. Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said yesterday that "it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing."
So Kansas joins Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Texas among 20+ U.S. states that have said no to old-fashioned coal plants. Beyond the clear significance of denying a coal plant because it is the most GHG-intensive way to produce power, this decision unequivocally demonstrates that a state agency charged with protecting public health and the environment can and should stop these kinds of projects. Many of you may have already guess where I am going with this:

DHEC, are you listening?

For more on the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment and their decision to deny the permit for Sunflower Electric Power Corporation's proposed 1400 MW coal plant, go here or here

A story in this week's Charleston City Paper follows the ongoing controversy.

Here's hoping South Carolina and Kansas have something in common soon.

Coal on TV

Instead of reading another blog post, why not watch some TV? With all the recent talk on mercury in this state, I thought the below video, a production WTTW, a public television station in Chicago, of would be of interest to readers (watchers!)

South Carolina's mercury problem is one of the worst in the nation; can we learn something from Illinois?