Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The National Stage

Heard this on the radio this morning. Will DHEC and Santee Cooper just ignore these folks? It would take a rare kind of arrogance and disregard for the good of our state and of America.

Attorneys general oppose coal plant

8 top prosecutors want Santee Cooper to be denied permit
By Tony Bartelme
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eight attorneys general want South Carolina to nix Santee Cooper's plan for a new coal-fired power generator in the Pee Dee, saying the plant would pump millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air and undermine their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

Opposition from these top government prosecutors shows how the high-stakes debate over Santee Cooper's Pee Dee project has landed firmly on the national stage.

In a letter dated Jan. 22, to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, the eight attorneys general urged the agency to deny Santee Cooper a permit and focus instead on cleaner technologies to produce electricity.

Citing a compact by 10 Northeastern states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the prosecutors said the Pee Dee plant would release 9 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year, effectively canceling reductions planned in their states.

Attorneys general from California, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont signed the letter.

"I think it's extraordinary that they have written this letter," said Blan Holman, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "It shows the plant doesn't just have significance in the Pee Dee and in South Carolina, but that it's part of a national debate."
Related stories

Read previous stories on mercury.

Santee Cooper wants to build a $1 billion coal plant on the banks of the Great Pee Dee River in Florence County. The state-owned utility says if it doesn't move forward with the generators, parts of South Carolina could face blackouts and brownouts by 2013. The utility's plan enjoys wide support from the state's manufacturing community.

Laura Varn, Santee Cooper vice president of corporate communications, said DHEC doesn't have any legal authority to order the utility to reduce carbon dioxide emissions for the Pee Dee project.

Lawmakers are pushing new laws that would tax carbon-based emissions. But Varn said that Santee Cooper has to operate under existing laws, and that its Pee Dee plan meets or does better than current pollution rules require.
Attorneys General letter

The letter urging DHEC to deny Santee Cooper a permit for a new coal-powered power generator.

In their letter, the attorneys general, including aggressive prosecutors such as Andrew Cuomo of New York and Jerry Brown of California, said that "climate change is the single greatest environmental challenge facing the world today," and that state and federal laws require Santee Cooper to use the "best available technology" to reduce greenhouse gases.

The prosecutors said Santee Cooper should consider a plant fueled by natural gas, biomass or gasified coal — technologies that produce less carbon dioxide than traditional plants. Santee Cooper has said that these technologies are either unproven or too expensive, and that it plans to use state-of-the-art technology in the Pee Dee complex.

In 2007, 53 coal-fired plants across the nation were canceled or delayed in 2007, according to Global Energy Decisions, a company that tracks power plants for the Department of Energy.

As concerns mount about global warming, states are taking aggressive stands on pollution from their neighbors. In recent years, North Carolina's attorney general cited South Carolina and 12 other states as contributing to North Carolina's air pollution. New Jersey sued a utility in Pennsylvania last month over its air emissions.

Last year, the eight government prosecutors opposed to Santee Cooper's plant urged Kansas health officials to deny a permit for a new plant there. They did so, citing concerns about global warming.

"Those attorneys general letters were very influential in Kansas, and my hope is that they'll be very influential in South Carolina," said Nancy Cave of the Coastal Conservation League. "I hope they won't shrug it off."

Engineers with DHEC received more than 700 comments about the plant but have set no timetable for their decision whether to allow its construction.

Reach Tony Bartelme at tbartelme@postandcourier.com or 937-5554.


Anonymous said...

Wow, these politicians were so concerned they had their proxies sign for them.


That's a pretty slick move. Make a bold statement on an issue you have no real influence over, get credit for it, and still maintain plausible deniability ("hey, I didn't sign that") should it all blow up in your face. Gotta love politicians and election years.

The Anonymous Avenger said...

Your extensive knowledge of gubernatorial politics in other states aside, those AG's did pretty well in Kansas, didn't they?

Anonymous said...

AA -

I hate to be the one to tell you this, bu the AG letter on the Kansas Sunflower plant had nothing to do with the decision to not issue a permit. The entire Kansas Legislature supported and still supports the facility.

The only person who didn't was a Democrat governor with national aspirations. She did such a good job of kissing up to the Democrat leadership with this, they let her give the State of the Union Rebuttal.

I am eagerly awaiting the outcome of the court case filed against the state. The courts have cleared the way for this to be decided quickly since there is no legal basis to hold up the process of issuing a permit.