Wednesday, January 23, 2008

SELC, state and national environmental groups, attack Pee Dee coal plant proposal

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Controls has issued a draft permit for a proposed two unity 1320 megawatt pulverized coal-fired power plant on the banks of the Great Pee Dee River in Florence County. The period for the public to comment on the permit close[d yesterdsay].

SELC, on behalf of a host of environmental organizations including the Sierra Club and the Coastal Conservation League, contends that Santee Cooper has not established a need for the plant, that a new coal unit is not the best way to meet any energy needs, and that the plant as proposed does use the cleanest technology available as the law requires.

Gudrun Thompson: “DHEC’s proposal to allow a new, dirty coal plant at a time when the State of South Carolina faces unprecedented air quality-related challenges, including mercury pollution that damages the brains of our most vulnerable citizens, global warming pollution that threatens our fragile coastline with rising sea levels, and soot and smog pollution that contribute to asthma attacks is irresponsible and flies in the face of the agency’s responsibility to protect public health.

“Santee Cooper hasn’t proposed and DHEC isn’t requiring the use of the cleanest technology available at the Pee Dee plant. Not only is this dangerous, it’s illegal and in clear violation of the Clean Air Act. As it stands, any final permit based on this half-baked draft permit is vulnerable to a legal challenge.”

So goes the press release from the Southern Environmental Law Center. Santee Cooper is fond of claiming that it's proposed plant will be among the cleanest power plants in the nation. SELC's comments on DHEC's draft air quality permit gives the lie to that spurious claim many, many times over. In fact, by the time it would be built (IF it is ever built), Santee Cooper's plant will be dirtier than many plants that already exist today. In some instances, it will be dirtier than the coal plant they just finished building last year. In an election year, its more obvious than usual that we need more than empty promises from our leaders -- that includes DHEC and Santee Cooper.


Anonymous2 said...

What do you guys think of this?

Just a few quotes:

“Our people have nowhere to work,” he said. “They have to drive 40 to 50 miles to work. Our kids graduate here and there is no opportunity for them here. They’re all moving away. Our churches are drying up and our businesses are drying up.”

"... opposition for the plant are a number of conservation groups from outside of the region, Hardee said."

How about takin' that polar bear suit act to Pamplico?

Saildude said...

Yeah right- All those thousands of permanent jobs.

The only long term jobs to come from this coal plant will be for the health care industry.

Someone will have to treat the thousands who will be poisoned for generations to come.

Thanks but I would rather drive, your concern is touching though.

Mike said...


Cool club that I'm sure S-C is bankrolling -- have y'all ever talked to the people who would be living around the plant -- I have, and they don't want it at all. They've got a petition with 600+ signatures.

I'm sure if they had some rogue state-supported "utility" funding them, they'd get an interview in the paper too.

Why don't you tell us what you think about this post, fella? Your side's contention that this plant uses "the best control technology available" is a total lie!

happy sparkle bunny said...

Hey ABEC guy-

After you scrub the mercury and other toxins and they are turned to ash or synthetic gypsum how do you guys keep it from getting into the environment again when it is in an open landfill like in Eastover?

When the synthetic gypsum is processed into cement or wallboard to be put in peoples homes doesn't the mercury and toxins become liberated into the environment again?

Is it safe to put this poison in our houses?

I know it is a godsend for Big Coal as the fly ash becomes someone else's problem, like the people who have it in their house without knowing it is toxic.

Thanks in advance ABEC guy!

Anonymous said...

If we throw in a big mouse and a gorilla to go with the sad excuse of a melting snowman and polar bear, we would have a Chucky Cheese!!!

And it had to be pizza because cheese is always in season.

Public Service Chump said...

I'm sure y'all would be happy to provide the POWER for all these chucky cheese robots dancing in your brain. that's why we're runnin' outta power in SC, right? Too many chucky cheeses?

Anonymous said...

Why would Santee Cooper care about how much power they sell? Aren't they a non-profit?

Robert S said...


Santee Cooper is not a non profit. Sierra Club is a non profit. Why lie?

Santee Cooper is a quasi-public company. Part state agency, part unregulated business.

Still, you have a point: Santee Cooper is (or should be) in the business of providing power to South Carolina at the least cost.

By my estimation, that means y'all should be national leaders in energy efficiency (the cheapest way to provide energy services by a country mile) -- but you are NOT.

Instead, you think you are the chamber of commerce, selling off our state's health and environmental quality so that y'all can offer the cheapest rates to industrial customers (while screwing your residential rate payers -- I understand they'll be seeing you in court soon).

If you want folks to believe that the good ole boys running Santee Cooper (and their friends) aren't getting rich in the process, well then you must think South Carolina is stupid (and I'm sure you do).

I only wish I could cancel my membership in Santee Cooper like I could if you really were a non-profit.

Anonymous said...

Call it what you like, but they don't answer to shareholders so profit would not seem to be their primary driver. I'm not familiar with the nuances of business descriptions, but this seems like "non-profit" to me.

I recently read that Santee Cooper had proposed 40% of their "portfolio" come from renewable resouces over the next twenty years or something. These hardly seem the actions of people uninterested in efficiency. Since you brought it up, how do you know how Santee Cooper stacks up re: efficiency? I have seen no numbers published on the subject, only rhetoric from people who write as if they're foaming at the mouth. I find that disappointing and unconvincing.

I'm not familiar with the suit you mention other than what I've seen in the newspaper. Still, as for low-cost, seems that rates in SC are pretty low. I'm not sure how they stack up nationally, but I'd think it's pretty good. Is the rate lower in all these places you know about with better efficiency programs? Enlighten me, please. And please be more polite this time, else outsiders might get the idea South Carolinians don't know how to behave with civility.

Anonymous said...


I do not work for ABEC or any other lobbying group or NGO. However, I've found google ( to be very useful in providing some general links and information on the questions you raise, so I thought I'd share. There's certainly nothing wrong with asking real questions - I am concerned, however, that answers for questions actually be sought. Intellectual laziness should not be an excuse for inaction when real concerns are raised - that is, if those concerns are indeed "real." But no bother, I'm happy to help.

Here's what I've found:

(1) Googling terms and combinations of terms such as "coal combustion, fly ash, leaching, concrete"...
(a) a study from the Netherlands saying trace metals in fly ash contained in concrete do not leach in quantities that raise health concerns.
(b) a similar study from England
(c) this link, which states that fly ash is not considered a hazardous material and includes EPA comments on the relative inability of trace elements to leach from concrete containing fly ash:
(d) the EPA's excellent page on the subject, located here: . If you look around on this page, you'll see "Using CCPs" on the right. Click there and you'll see a link to environmental and health information that takes you here (, where the EPA says "Studies and research conducted or supported by EPA, Electric Power and Research Institute (EPRI), government agencies, and UNIVERSITIES indicates that the beneficial uses of coal combustion products have not been shown to present significant risks to human health or the environment."
(e) I certainly could've missed it, but in general, I didn't see anything to indicate any type of academic or official concern with use of fly ash in concrete.

(2) Using combinations of the following search terms: "synthetic gypsum, health concerns, health effects, leaching, dust"...
(a) Utility stuff that you all are likely to discount, I’m afraid.
(b) Material Safety Data Sheets which don't indicate any type of real concern other than dust exposure – similar to real gypsum which is mined from the ground.
(c) Links indicating the material's use agriculturally. Don't worry, state and federal regulators have strict checks and controls here, too - ask most any successful farmer today.
(d) Links indicating the predominance of synthetic gypsum is an environmental bonus not only because it was created as a byproduct of keeping our air clean, but also because it will end the practice of gypsum mining.
(e) The only environmental concern I saw involved disposal in improperly designed or managed landfills. This applies to both natural and synthetic gypsum – as well as municipal garbage.

Based on this search, it appears that your concerns over these issues are unfounded.

Landfills themselves are engineered to prevent leakage of water through them so that groundwater is not contaminated. What they do is get a material, usually a clay mineral, and compact it to an extremely low, essentially impermeable hydraulic conductivity ( below, around, and above the landfill. Oftentimes a synthetic liner is used as well. I don't know if it's appropriate to refer to a landfill as "open" or not, but they are typically designed in sections called “cells,” so that all recently-deposited material is quickly covered. Then the landfill's performance is monitored with wells which surround the site, and with other wells within the landfill itself. Such monitoring usually continues for many years after the landfill’s closure. If a problem is discovered via the landfill’s predetermined regular monitoring schedule, scientists, engineers, and construction teams will come out and rework the site.

I admire your dedication and share your high principles in wanting to protect the environment. I would encourage you to pursue a science-based degree which will allow you to do so more effectively. You raise good questions; I’d further suggest that you actively seek answers in the future. Finally, I think you should have a look at this article: It reminds me of many good friends, and suggests some other effective ways well-intentioned people can positively impact our world.

Best wishes,


Robert S said...

You might want to consult the tax code to get up to speed on what constitutes a non-profit.

Santee Cooper saved about 0.001% of the electricity it sold in 2006 with its energy efficiency programs (check out the SCEO's SC Utility DSM report).

South Carolina has low rates, true. But it has the 4th highest bills in the nation. I don't know about you, with your science-based degree, but I'd prefer to have a lower bill.

Not surprisingly, states that do well with efficiency have the lowest bills. Again, what is more important to folks: low bills or low rates? I bet you no one could even tell you what their electric rate is, but they probably know what they paid on their last bill.

As for your 40% by 2020 pledge, you forgot to mention that 31% of that consists of nuclear power (much of which is already existing). Tell us, how much of the remaining 9% is attributable to energy efficiency? I'd especially like to know since our state's Coop's have proved they can reduce their demand by up to 20% by 2017...