Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mercury Rising, continued....

In response to a federal court ruling that rendered current mercury regulations in the United States illegal, Santee Cooper has announced that it will conduct a review of how its proposed Pee Dee plant would limit significant mercury pollution (since as it stands; the plant is illegal).

Readers of this blog will note that opponents of this plant have argued for this kind of review all along.

Questions that will remain unanswered even after Santee Cooper completes this analysis:

How will more mercury pollution affect the health of South Carolinians?

How much will more mercury pollution cost of state, our citizens?

Why hasn't Santee Cooper considered alternative ways to generate the power it claims it needs that would have ZERO mercury emissions?

From the Post and Courier:

Pee Dee power plant pollution to be examined
Santee Cooper to analyze mercury-reduction methods
By Tony Bartelme (Contact)
The Post and Courier
Thursday, March 20, 2008

Amid rising
concerns over mercury and greenhouse gases from coal-fired power generators, Santee Cooper on Wednesday said it plans to take a closer look at its pollution-control strategy for the proposed $1 billion Pee Dee plant.

Conservation groups have been pushing Santee Cooper for months to do such an analysis. "It should have started long ago," said John Suttles, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The group says other coal-burning technologies, including one that turns coal into gas, are cleaner than Santee Cooper's Pee Dee plan.

Santee Cooper decided to do what's known in regulatory circles as a "Maximum Achievable Control Technology" analysis after a federal appellate court last month struck down the Bush administration's controversial "cap-and-trade" program to reduce mercury pollution.

Among other things, the program would have let utilities buy and sell mercury pollution "credits." The court said this was wrong and that utilities should find the most effective technology to cut mercury, a powerful neurotoxin linked to numerous health problems.

Santee Cooper said its study will examine technology in other plants to reduce mercury and other pollutants and that such studies usually involve more opportunities for the public to comment.

Santee Cooper wants permits for two 600-megawatt generators for a new power plant on the Great Pee Dee River near Kingsburg. The utility says it needs the plant to keep lights burning in fast-growing areas of coastal South Carolina.

Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper's president and chief executive, said he was confident the utility's plans to reduce mercury "are among the most stringent in the country." Suttles said Carter's statement suggests "it already knows the results of a mercury study before the study has even been conducted. That's like announcing the winner of American Idol before first the contestant sings."

The study will delay the permitting process by a few months, said Laura Varn, the utility's director of corporate communications.

More coverage from the Florence Morning News and The State.

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