Monday, April 28, 2008

Pee Dee Timeline & Video

See below for a timeline of events related to the Pee Dee coal plant proposal. These were compiled by the Florence Morning News.

Click here to view a video on the Florence Morning News website featuring Terri Cook, a Pamplico resident who lives next to the proposed coal site. There's also some pro coal guy on in the video who thinks (erroneously) the new coal plant will bring a lot of jobs to the area.

Timeline of proposed coal-fired plant in Kingsburg
Saturday, Apr 19, 2008

Santee Cooper has proposed a 600-megawatt coal-fired generation facility, which would be located on a 2,709-acre tract in Kingsburg. The facility is scheduled to become operational sometime after 2012.

Officials within the company have said the energy produced by the plant is necessary to South Carolina to prevent a power shortage in the next five years.

Area residents have been divided on the issue, and an end to the debate is nowhere in sight.

Below is a timeline of the events surrounding the proposed coal plant thus far.

On April 21, 2006: Santee Cooper announces plans for a 600 megawatt pulverized coal facility with an estimated cost of $984.

On May 22, 2006: The proposed completion date is cut by two years — putting the expected completion date in 2012 — and adding $14 million to the price tag for the plant.

On Oct. 7, 2006: Santee Cooper begins submitting permits in the hopes of clearing the land of the proposed site in Kingsburg.

On Oct. 24, 2006: Pamplico Mayor Gene Gainey announces his stand in favor of the coal plant. Also, Santee Cooper announces plans to begin construction in March 2007.

On March 20, 2007: The first of the groups opposing the coal plant begin to surface. Southern Environmental Law Center and the Coastal Conservation League began making their opinions against the proposed plant known.

On March 21, 2007: Santee Cooper extols the need for more power in South Carolina, saying the company will be 385 megawatts short of the amount needed to power homes in the region by 2012, if the plant isn’t built.

On April 30: Santee Cooper announces its intention to use a more in-depth version of the Environmental Impact Statement as required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This process will delay the construction of the coal plant by 14 to 18 months.

On May 2: Florence County Council announces its support for proposed plant.

On July 12: The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control holds an informal public meeting to answer questions about the proposed facility.

On July 17: Columbia-based environmental consulting firm, LPA Group Inc. is selected to perform an evaluation of the environmental impact statement.

On Sept. 17: DHEC issues the draft of the Prevention Significant Deterioration despite many requests not to by conservationists and some residents.

On Sept. 27: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers holds two public scoping meetings to hear the concerns of residents affected by the proposed plant.

On Oct. 25: Members of the Coastal Conservation League, the S.C. Wildlife Federation, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the S.C. Sierra Club, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and residents of the Pamplico and Kingsburg areas gather at the S.C. Statehouse to protest the proposed plant.

On Oct. 31: Health care professionals in the Pee Dee gather to protest the plant, citing health issues as a reason for DHEC to deny the draft air permits.

On Nov. 8: DHEC holds a public hearing on the draft air permits for the Santee Cooper facility to better address the concerns of the residents in the area. Gainey presents a petition signed by more than 1,000 people in favor of the plant. Mike King, a local environmentalist and resident of the Kingsburg area, also presents a petition signed by more than 400 residents of the area who are against the plant.

On Dec. 13: Francis Marion University professors conduct an in-depth look into the economic benefits of the proposed coal plant, determining $900 million in economic output and 9,300 jobs will be brought to the region as a result of the project, based on information provided by Santee Cooper.

On Jan. 22: Formation of the Pee Dee Supporters for Progress is announced in support of the plant.

On Jan. 23: Conservation groups release 136-page analysis of coal plants, detailing potentially harmful effects.

On Jan. 29: Attorneys General from eight states urge DHEC to reconsider the draft air permits.

On Feb. 8: The federal court rules the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Air Act by removing coal and oil plants from the list of hazardous air pollution sources.

On March 3: Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter defends the need for the coal-fired facility to the members of the Florence Rotary Club.

On March 19: Santee Cooper announces plans to move forward with the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT), as required by the federal court’s ruling in February.

On March 27: Santee Cooper announces plan to increase the cost of the proposed coal plant from $998 million to $1.25 billion, citing growing costs of gasoline and building materials.

On April 11: Eastern Carolina Development Corp. and the Coastal Conservation League join forces to contract an outside data firm to review the economic data of the coal plant. The data from the report, using public information, shows markedly different results than the one conducted by FMU professors in December. According to the new report, only 228 jobs would come to the region as a result of the plant.

The Environmental Impact Statement has not been released by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Although DHEC has approved a draft air permit, it is not the final permit needed for Santee Cooper to follow through with plans to begin construction of the facility.

Below is a comparison of two Santee Cooper coal plants. The Cross Three facility began producing power in January, while the rates for the Pee Dee Energy Campus are projected rates based on analysis so far. The rates are per megawatt hour.

Cross Three:
Carbon dioxide: 1,944
Sulfur dioxide: 0.512
Nitrogen oxides: 0.758
Mercury: 0.0000342

Pee Dee Energy Campus
Carbon dioxide: 1,784
Sulfur dioxide: 0.470
Nitrogen Oxides: 0.696
Mercury: Projected emission rates will be released after MACT analysis is completed in May.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Answer: Blowing in the Wind

Once again, our sister state to the north is getting there first. With one of the largest (offshore) wind resources in the nation, South Carolina can certainly more than catch up.

Note that this wind farm is being built by private citizens. If they can do it, so can the "experts."

Lawmakers in North Carolina know that. That's why they are REQUIRING utilities there to generate 12.5% of their power from renewables and efficiency over the next 12 years.

If our state's utilities would put as much effort (and money) into renewables and efficiency, we wouldn't be having this coal plant fight.

That might be happening in some of our state's utilities. It clearly isn't in others.

From the Charlotte N&O:

State clears coastal wind farmJohn Murawski, Staff Writer
Raleigh entrepreneurs Nelson and Dianna Paul cleared the first hurdle Thursday toward building the state's largest wind power plant in Bettie, east of Morehead City.

The state Utilities Commission approved the proposed project -- on condition that the wind farm is permitted by Carteret County and also cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The county has imposed a moratorium on wind farms as officials there try to establish regulations for the structures in coastal areas. The three turbines proposed by Paul would exceed 400 feet in height with blades fully extended upward, towering more than twice as high as the Cape Lookout lighthouse. Residents have lobbied against the wind turbines as an eyesore and environmental hazard.

The Pauls must still apply for a permit from the FAA for their 4.5 megawatt Golden Wind Farm. The federal agency requires assurance that the turbines will not interfere with the flight path of a nearby airport and that they will not cause radio interference with an air traffic control radar.

The state approval is also conditional on the Pauls conducting a study to determine whether the airspace above the turbines can generate sufficient wind activity to justify the project. The question decided by the Utilities Commission on Thursday was whether there was a public need in the state for the wind farm.

The Pauls' proposal would provide power for about 900 homes when the wind is blowing, which is about 35 percent of the time.

"Honestly, it blows so much, it's a nuisance," Dianna Paul said.

The largest wind project in the state is a 50-kilowatt private turbine operated by military security contractor Blackwater Worldwide at the company's head- quarters in Currituck County. The Blackwater turbine generates enough electricity to power the equivalent of about eight homes.

The Pauls, both real estate agents in Raleigh, are Carteret County natives who own the 33.3-acre farm where the wind turbines would be built. Nelson Paul once worked as a wetlands scientist for the N.C. Division of Coastal Management.

The Pauls are in discussions to have Progress Energy buy the electricity that Golden Wind would produce. Private generators are not allowed to sell electricity directly to retail customers in North Carolina; they can only sell at wholesale rates to public utilities.

Progress is exploring renewable-energy options. A new state state law requires that utilities derive 12.5 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources or efficiency programs by 2021.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Common Sense from Florence

The following open letter to the state's elected officials appeared in yesterday's Florence Morning News. Here's hoping they listen to this reasonable man.

Compromise should be reached on power plant
Thursday, Apr 24, 2008 - 04:00 AM
By Christopher Goss, Florence

I am pro-power, and I am pro-jobs. However, I ask that you please listen to those voicing concerns about the proposed power plant and work together with them and Santee Cooper to reach a compromise acceptable to both parties. As our elected officials, you have been chosen to lead based on your ability to make wise decisions now in anticipation of future events. This type of pulverized-coal plant in the Pee Dee’s mercury triangle is simply a bad idea both now and in the future.

As a chemist, I am concerned about the increased levels of methylmercury and DHEC’s refusal to at least test people and establish a mercury baseline from which one might see the power plant’s impact on our citizens’ health. As an outdoorsman, I am appalled at the lack of concern for our polluted rivers and lack of signage to educate the public how polluted our rivers are. However, it is as a fiscal conservative that I vehemently oppose the current plan. How can we let our public utility make such a horrible business decision under our watch? Just this week, George Bush has changed his stance and says he wants to rapidly slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions.

McCain, Obama and Clinton all hold more aggressive stances supporting mandatory limits on greenhouse gases. Face it. In the future, there will be carbon taxes and/or mandatory emission caps on nearly all the pollutants this type of plant releases.

Even the fair and balanced Fox News aired an ICCR article warning investors that coal is losing its appeal as a predictable investment and is instead fraught with uncertainty.

Building this type of pulverized-coal plant now costs 100 percent more than it did in 2002 and there appears to be no end to the skyrocketing costs.

Make no mistake. As said above, I am definitely pro-power and pro-jobs. Let’s just have some common sense and hold a public utility accountable for wanting to build a plant now that will face serious construction costs and delays and be prohibitively expensive to maintain and operate in the future.

There are other smarter alternatives that will create more, better jobs and cleaner electricity. After all, privately-held Duke Power and Progress Energy both have enough foresight to move past this type of pulverized-coal plant.

Please just listen and do what’s best for all parties involved.

After all, that’s what we elected you to do.

SCE&G Steps Up; S-C Lays Low

Some utilities, at least, are trying to get it right (It can be done, after all).

Scana aims to sell less power
Company says it will continue to help customers conserve energy

By Kyle Stock
The Post and Courier
Friday, April 25, 2008

COLUMBIA — Scana Corp., the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas, dyed itself a deeper shade of green at its annual shareholders meeting Thursday.

The Columbia-based utility, following the lead of others in its industry, said it will continue to help its customers buy less of its power.

"Permanent irreversible reductions in electric demand are rational, save valuable resources and are clearly the right thing to do," Scana Chief Executive Officer William Timmerman told about 100 shareholders, directors and executives Thursday. "Conservation is very much on everyone's minds today."

The company announced the appointment of a new executive in charge of conservation, which it internally refers to as "demand-side management." And it is considering some aggressive "green" initiatives, including replacing its fleet of cars and trucks with hybrid vehicles, converting one of its coal plants to burn natural gas and using ponds of algae to gobble up carbon dioxide emissions.

Timmerman also said the utility has decided not to build any new coal-fired plants because of the surging price of the fuel and its relatively high emissions, which soon might be subject to a form of federal tax.

"We've just continued to push the envelope away from coal," Timmerman said. "We really did not want to create more issues for our customers by building a coal-fired plant."

Timmerman reaffirmed the company's plans to build two nuclear reactors next to a plant it co-owns with Santee Cooper near Jenkinsville. If all goes as planned, the new units would crank up in 2016 and 2019, boosting Scana generation capacity by 20 percent.

"The more we did the analysis, the more we became convinced," Timmerman said. "Nuclear became the clear choice."

For now, however, Scana has power to spare and is selling more of it than ever. The utility reported a 27 percent increase in first-quarter income Thursday, as factories and new customers sucked more electricity from its grid, despite a slowing economy and a dismal real estate market.

Scana posted income of $109 million, or 94 cents per share, in the first three months of the year, compared with $86 million, or 73 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2007. Revenue climbed 12 percent from $1.36 billion to $1.53 billion. The results handily beat analyst expectations of a profit of 76 cents per share.

"It was a solid quarter," said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Addison. "It looks really impressive compared to a year ago, which was a miserable quarter."

Thanks to new customers and robust industrial demand, the utility sold 4.5 percent more electricity in the first quarter.

In the past year, Scana signed on 2.1 percent more electricity customers, boosting its total to 643,000 homes and businesses. Its natural gas users swelled 1.4 percent to 1.3 million.

The company reaffirmed its expectation to earn between $2.90 and $3.05 per share this year. "There's nothing out there that indicates that the inward migration to our service territories will slow," Timmerman said.

Scana also increased its annual dividend 4.5 percent to $1.84 per share.

Angie McClam, president of the Association of Scana Corp. Investors, said she was pleased with the earnings announced Thursday. "I'm real proud of Scana stock. It's holding its own," she said. "Apparently, we've got good management."

Scana's stock jumped 72 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $39.55 on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday. The shares began trading this year at $42.07.

Read more about how coal is "off the table" for SCANA/SCE&G over at The State. It makes one wonder, if Santee Cooper wasn't insulated from market forces and regulatory oversight on account of its status as a quasi-state agency (e.g. a socialist entity), would it still be pursuing a coal plant? In a state whose politics run deep with free-market conservative thought, you'd think this question would be troubling to many.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Dorthy to Coal: We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Kansas Governor Vetoes Second Coal-Fired Power Bill
TOPEKA, Kansas
April 17, 2008 (ENS)

Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, today again vetoed legislation that would have overturned a decision of her administration to deny an permit application to build two new coal-fired power plants in western Kansas.

The measure, SB 148, supported mainly by Republicans, passed without a veto-proof majority of state legislators.

Last October Secretary of Kansas Department of Health and Environment Rob Bremby denied a permit to regional wholesale power supplier Sunflower Electric Power Corporation to build two new 700 megawatt power plants at its Holcomb Station because of the greenhouse gases they would have produced.

The bill Sebelius vetoed today would have permitted the power plants and stripped the state agency of the power to deny such permits in the future if they held utilities to standards stricter than those in the federal Clean Air Act.
"Legislators who promote the expansion of coal-fired plants in Kansas made a strategic decision with SB 148," said Sebelius. "Rather than working toward a compromise solution or having any conversation about energy policy, this bill was drafted behind closed doors. It contains the same onerous elements of the previous bill that I vetoed; and again, these are elements I cannot accept and will not support."

"This maneuver has done nothing to address the issues at hand - developing comprehensive energy policy, providing base-load energy power for Western Kansas, implementing carbon mitigation strategies and capitalizing on our incredible assets for additional wind power," the governor said.

Opponents of the Sunflower project say wind and conservation are better alternatives to new coal plants, which will send 85 percent of their electricity outside the state anyway.

Supporters say Western Kansas needs the power, and that rejecting the plants will create an unstable business climate and scare future investments away.
But the political climate is changing and supporters of coal power are facing challenging times at both federal and state levels.

President George W. Bush, a long-time climate change skeptic, announced a policy shift Wednesday that would halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025. While not soon enough for many scientists and environmentalists, the announcement signals a recognition that climate change is a real threat that the government must address.

Sebelius said today that the president's announcement underlines the necessity of her decision not to allow more coal-fired power plants to be construction in Kansas.

"President Bush has announced a new goal for stopping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, and recognized that the power sector must make significant efforts to achieve that goal," she said.

"Since the most likely way to achieve this goal is through a cap and trade system, which would, in effect, tax carbon, it would be unfair to Kansans for our utilities to build coal-fired plants for other states until we can evaluate the costs of those plants for Kansas tax payers and rate payers."

"We must remember the decisions we make today have a huge impact on Kansans for generations to come. The challenges before us can and should be met through a common sense solution," she said. "I am still hopeful we can have meaningful discussions about a true compromise; rather than being sent the same bill in disguise yet again."

With this action, Sebelius has signed 91 bills this legislative session and vetoed two.

Dirty Water

Not only do some utilities want to continue fouling our air and contaminating our bodies with pollution from coal plants, some also want to use their power plants to drain our rivers dry. See this article from the State:

Logjam is dooming water withdrawal bill

An impasse between big business and conservation groups has all but killed a plan to protect rivers and drinking water across South Carolina.

Without a law to oversee water withdrawals:

n South Carolina’s drinking water plants and industries could be vulnerable if new companies divert water upstream.

• The Palmetto State will have a harder time striking deals with Georgia and North Carolina for the use of common rivers, including the Savannah and Catawba, negotiators say.

The bill, which has bogged down in the Legislature, would, for the first time, require permits — and state oversight — for new or expanding industries that want to draw at least 3 million gallons per month from a river.

Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman said it’s a shame the Legislature could not reach an agreement.

“It is important for everyone to know who is sticking a straw in the river,” said Merryman, whose river today has been named the nation’s most endangered. “You can’t have withdrawals that are unchecked.”

Donna Lisenby, founder of Waterkeepers Carolina, said South Carolina’s failure to pass a bill could set back efforts to launch a permitting program in North Carolina that would protect users downstream in the Palmetto State. Tarheel legislators were looking to South Carolina for direction, she said.

While the bill is on the Senate’s calendar in South Carolina, it has been contested — which severely damages the possibility of passage this year, said its sponsor, Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York. The Senate would have to vote on the bill by May 1 so the House could debate it.

“I’m going to keep fighting,” Hayes said. “We have got to get a handle on our surface water withdrawals or you’re going to have battles like out West, where you don’t have enough.”

Led by Duke Energy Inc., industries fought strict versions of the bill that would keep companies from drawing rivers to low levels. Industry favored versions of the bill that would allow withdrawals below what state scientists said was good for fish and wildlife.

Power companies, who say the federal government already regulates their dams, use the majority of surface water in South Carolina. Most are proposing new power plants in the state.

Duke, for instance, plans a nuclear plant near Gaffney that will need more than 35 million gallons each day from the Broad River basin. Duke already consumes about 60 million gallons per day for existing power stations in the Upstate.

Santee Cooper, which takes about 58 million gallons per day for its existing plants, wants to consume at least 9 million gallons more each day for a proposed coal-fired power plant on the Great Pee Dee River. SCE&G could not provide comparable statistics this week.

Major environmental groups, once the permitting bill’s staunchest supporters, last week vowed to fight the legislation in the Senate because they said the latest versions don’t do enough to protect the public and wildlife.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Coal Kills

We've heard a lot this week about how a coal plant in South Carolina won't create jobs or wealth for South Carolinians -- despite the claims of the utility that wants to build one.

But all these economic arguments are moot're dead. See below for the latest news from the United States National Acedemy of Sciences, the most prestigeous scientific body in our country. They are stating in no uncertain terms that smog is deadly.

The Pee Dee plant will emit thousands of tons of poisonous gases that lead directly to ozone or smog every year.

This means that Santee Cooper's proposed coal plant, if built, can be expected to kill South Carolinians -- and that is no exaggeration.

The Federal government recently strengthened laws limiting ozone pollution, though it failed to tighten standards as much as health and scientific experts recommended. Even so, our state's Department of Health and Environmental Control is predicting that Florence county will have more smog in its air than is allowed by the new law.

That's without a new coal plant in Florence County. Folks who support this plant should stop and consider what it might do to the health of residents of the Pee Dee. If our nation's top scientists have anything to say about it, it is a matter of life...and death -- and that is no exaggeration.

US science panel says link between smog and premature death is clear
April 22, 2008 11:01 AM EDT

WASHINGTON - Short-term exposure to smog, or ozone, is clearly linked to premature deaths that should be taken into account when measuring the health benefits of reducing air pollution, a U.S. National Academy of Sciences report concluded Tuesday.

The findings contradict arguments made by some White House officials that the connection between smog and premature death has not been shown sufficiently, and that the number of saved lives should not be calculated in determining clean air benefits.

The report by a panel of the Academy's National Research Council says government agencies "should give little or no weight" to such arguments.

"The committee has concluded from its review of health-based evidence that short-term exposure to ambient ozone is likely to contribute to premature deaths," the 13-member panel said.

It added that "studies have yielded strong evidence that short-term exposure to ozone can exacerbate lung conditions, causing illness and hospitalization and can potentially lead to death."

The White House Office of Management and Budget, which in its review of air quality regulations has raised questions about the certainty of the pollution and mortality link, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

"The report is a rebuke of the Bush administration which has consistently tried to downplay the connection between smog and premature death," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington-based advocacy organization.

Vickie Patton, deputy general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund, said the Academy's findings "refutes the White House skepticism and denial" of a proven link between acute ozone exposure and premature deaths. Such arguments have been used to diminish the health benefits of reducing air pollution, she said.

The Academy panel examined short-term exposure - up to 24 hours - to high levels of ozone, but said more studies also were needed on long-term chronic exposure where the risk of premature death "may be larger than those observed in acute effects studies alone."

Ground-level ozone is formed from nitrogen oxide and organic compounds created by burning fossil fuels and is demonstrated often by the yellow haze or smog that lingers in the air. Ozone exposure is a leading cause of respiratory illnesses and especially affects the elderly, those with respiratory problems and children.

While premature death from ozone exposure is greater among individuals with lung and heart disease, the report said such deaths are not restricted to people who are at a high risk of death within a few days.

The scientists said they could not determine, based on a review of health studies, whether there is a threshold below which no fatalities can be assured from ozone exposure. If there is such a point, it is below the ozone levels allowed for public health.

Environmentalists and health advocates have argued that a string of health studies and surveys show that exposure to smoggy air not only aggravates respiratory problems, but causes thousands of deaths a year.

But in a number of instances the EPA and the White House Office of Management and Budget, which reviews regulations, have been at odds over the certainty of a link between smog levels and deaths.

Patton said the OMB in a number of air pollution regulations has sought to minimize the relationship of pollution and premature deaths, resulting in a lower calculation of health benefits from pollution reductions.

"This has been used by industry to try to attack health standards by minimizing the societal benefits," said Patton.

One such case involves the EPA's decision last month to toughen the ozone health standard, reducing the allowable concentration in the air.

When the cost-benefit analysis was being prepared in connection with the rulemaking, the OMB argued there is "considerable uncertainty" in the association between ozone levels and deaths.

As a result, the EPA issued a wide cost-benefit range from an annual net societal cost of $20 billion (euro12.5 billion) to a savings of $23 billion (euro14.4 billion), depending largely on whether one takes into account lives saved from ozone-related premature deaths.

OMB officials also have objected to the EPA quantifying ozone-related mortality benefits in new emissions standards for lawn mowers and other small engines that release large amounts of ozone-forming pollution.

In response, the EPA removed "all references to quantified ozone benefits" in the proposed rule, according to an e-mail sent by EPA to the OMB. The small engine regulation is awaiting final action.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bad Investment

More bad news for those touting the economic benefits of a coal plant in our state. It might put money in the pockets of folks in other states (and countries) though...

Study questions power plant benefits
By Kyle Stock
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Santee Cooper's controversial coal-burning power plant proposed for Florence County would not generate nearly as much of an economic windfall as the utility estimated, according to a new study from an environmental watchdog.

The Coastal Conservation League, a Charleston-based nonprofit, commissioned a report that said 68 percent of the dollars spent on the power plant will go out of state, and four out of five jobs will be filled by "non-local" workers, including all of the 112 or so permanent employees who will run the facility once it is built.
This is an artist's rendering of Santee Cooper's proposed coal-fired power plant in Florence County.

Scott Moore, a former Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce statistician who crunched the numbers for the Conservation League, pegged the plant's total economic impact in South Carolina at $542.6 million, 35 percent less than the estimate in a report commissioned by Santee Cooper, $839.1 million.

"A coal plant just isn't a good way to create jobs," said Ben Moore, a project manager at the league. "Whether this plan is debated on economic terms or health terms, it's just the wrong answer for South Carolina."

Santee Cooper has asked regulators for permission to build a 600-megawatt coal-burning power plant near the tiny town of Kingsburg in Florence County. The utility said it needs to fire up the facility by 2012 or its customers could face brownoutsand blackouts.

Though environmental watchdogs have long sparred with the state-owned utility over the proposed plant's pollution levels, the league's study is the first to challenge the economics of the facility.

In December, Santee Cooper received a bullish economic-impact report commissioned from Francis Marion University. That study said about 1,200 workers would be needed to build the plant, while some 639 other laborers would be required to support the construction in a variety of roles, from serving meals to delivering materials.

All told, workers tied to the plant would draw $481 million in wages during the five years it would take to build the Pee Dee generator. Santee Cooper would spend another $537 million in South Carolina on construction materials and other expenses, according to the Francis Marion researchers.

However, the Conservation League consultant said most of those workers would come from outside the area and take their paychecks with them when they leave.

Barry O'Brien, dean of Francis Marion University's business school and an author of the Santee Cooper study, stood by his analysis Monday.

"I hate the term apples and oranges, but (Moore) was looking at economic impact for the region and we were looking at economic impact for the state," he said.

O'Brien said his group also looked closely at where Santee Cooper would buy goods and services and how much of that money would "leak" across state borders.

It's likely that both studies are already outdated. Late last month, Santee Cooper said the first phase of its proposed plant would cost $1.25 billion, one-fourth more than the $998 million it originally estimated. Santee Cooper blamed the increase on surging costs for construction materials and delays in getting state and federal permits.

A growing number of utilities pursuing coal plants are finding construction costs, and concerns about global warming and mercury pollution, making such projects too expensive. U.S. power companies canceled or postponed plans to build more than 45 coal-burning generators in 2007, according to Energy Department statistics.

Reach Kyle Stock at 937-5763 or

Monday, April 21, 2008

Coal in Florence

The Florence Morning News has a new webpage devoted to the coal controversey going on in its backyard.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


More coverage of an alternative study of the benefits (or lack thereof) of Santee Cooper's coal plant (from the Columbia Free Times):

Study: Santee Cooper Inflates Plant’s Economic Impact
Opponents to Plant Say Conservation, Green Energy Can Meet Power Needs
by : Eric K. Ward

Santee Cooper has one hell of a fight on its hands in the state-owned utility’s effort to build a coal-fired power plant on the Great Pee Dee River in Florence County.

The latest punch at the plant is a study of its projected economic impact by Moore Data, a number crunching firm in the Charleston area.

The study concludes that a Santee Cooper economic impact review of the proposed plant, conducted by a research team at Francis Marion University in Florence, overstates the benefits of the facility.

The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, an environmental group that is part of a broad-based coalition fighting the plant, commissioned the Moore Data analysis and released it April 11 in conjunction with the Florence-based Eastern Carolina Community Development Corporation.

“It was important to produce a transparent, publicly available study that communicates what this plant will really mean to the region’s growth,” Moore Data’s Scott Moore, who oversaw the study, says in a summary of its findings. “Because most of the jobs are not local, and most of the investment is flowing out of the state, this project will not have the large economic impact people are looking for in the Pee Dee region.”

Santee Cooper spokeswoman Laura Varn referred questions about the Moore Data analysis to Barry O’Brien, who led the team that performed the Santee Cooper study and is dean of the School of Business at Francis Marion.

Varn said she would contact O’Brien and have him call to respond to the Moore Data report. O’Brien did not call before press time.

The Santee Cooper study says construction of the plant would create nearly $900 million in economic activity for the South Carolina economy and more than 9,300 full-time jobs, including 200 permanent local positions.

The Moore Data analysis says that 70 percent of the cost of the plant would be spent outside of the Pee Dee region and that the local workforce would fill only about 20 percent of the jobs.

The utility aims to build the plant near the small town of Kingsburg and have it operational sometime after 2012. Santee Cooper says the facility is necessary to meet a growing need for electricity in the state.

The opponents counter that the plant is not needed because South Carolina could meet its power needs through conservation and green energy efforts. They further contend that coal is a dirty, dinosaur electricity source that harms public health, fish and wildlife and the environment.

Santee Cooper asserts that the plant would feature the latest environmental control technology available and be one of the cleanest power stations in the country.

No matter which side is right, this fight promises to persist for at least a few years. — EW

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"The jobs are simply not there"

A new report was recently released on the proposed Pee Dee Coal plant. You can read it here or read about it below:

New study of proposed Kingsburg plant contradicts FMU study
Economic impact focus of both studies

Friday, Apr 11, 2008 - 02:01 PM Updated: 04:34 PM
By Jamie Durant

FLORENCE — Eastern Carolina Community Development Corp., in conjunction with the Coastal Conservation League, has released a new economic impact analysis on the proposed Santee Cooper coal-fired power plant in Kingsburg.

The results show a marked difference from the economic impact study conducted last year by Francis Marion University, which used data directly from Santee Cooper.

The 600-megawatt plant, called the Pee Dee Energy Campus, is proposed to be located on a 2,709-acre tract along the Great Pee Dee River, is scheduled to become operational sometime after 2012. Although Santee Cooper officials say the plant will be one of the cleanest coal plants in the state, many citizens and conservation groups disagree.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue its environmental impact statement regarding the plant.

The Rev. Leo Woodberry, executive director of the Eastern Carolina Development Corp., said he thinks it is no accident that coal plants are commonly located in areas that are primarily black or impoverished.

“When you look at most coal-fired facilities, they are either in people of color’s communities or in very very low income communities,” Woodberry said. “So that was our interest this. We had some questions about that.”

Nancy Cave, North Coast director of the Coastal Conservation League, said she thinks there are safer alternatives to coal that must be considered by Santee Cooper.

“There are alternatives that are being looked, at and what we have to make sure of is that they are being implemented here in South Carolina,” Cave said.

Cave said the report done by FMU was done using information supplied directly by Santee Cooper, but so far, the basis for those numbers have not been released to the public.

“We’re using public information and Santee Cooper is using information they don’t want to share with anybody,” she said. “It’s a matter of transparency.”

The report, compiled and developed by Scott Moore, president of Moore Data, indicated that cost of the proposed power plant would end up being greater Santee Cooper’s projected cost of $1.25 billion, coming in at $1.35 billion.

The total number of jobs the plant would bring to the region was vastly different than in the Santee Cooper/FMU study, as well. The number of jobs brought to the area, according to Santee Cooper and FMU, was roughly 1,200.

According to Moore’s data, the coal plant would only bring an additional 228 jobs to the region, and would result in a local investment of $432 million.

“We commissioned people from the outside to do a peer review,” Moore said. “We wanted to know what people who were clearly not connected with the project thought about our findings.”

Moore said Santee Cooper’s claims of many jobs resulting from the power plant are easily disproved.

Just as race car drivers aren’t needed in Charleston Harbor, but ship captains are, the types of people who are available for work in the Pee Dee would not be qualified to work in the power plant, Moore said.

“The jobs are simply not there,” Moore said.

“This has nothing to do with the quality of the work force in Florence,” he said. “Why would anybody in Florence have the types of skills when we don’t have this type of facility? It’s just common sense.”

“We feel efficiency can happen now, and it can help all the areas of the community faster than any coal plant ever will, ” Cave said.

Turn out for Friday’s announcement of Moore’s study results was much greater, Cave said, than she anticipated.

“We’re very pleased,” she said. “Dr. (Benetha) George said it well, that this is the impetus for a town hall meeting to discuss the coal plant’s impact, particularly on the African-American community. This is the impetus to let them learn and give them a voice about what is right for their community.”

George is a retired physician who grew up in the Pamplico area before moving to Maryland to practice medicine. She said she returned to the Pee Dee and plans to fight against organizations that would cause harm to impoverished people in the region.

“The No. 1, 2 and 3 causes of death (among blacks) are associated with emissions from coal-fired power plants,” she said. “That is not to say coal-fired plants exclusively cause these problems, but they add to it.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

If coal is so good...

...then why do we need advertisements to convince us?

Coal's media campaign just got a huge anabolic shot in the arm, but the message remains the same: let's burn more coal, let's make the taxpayers pay for it, and lets spend a lot of money conving you it's a good idea.

Check out their latest marketing attempt below. Too bad it doesn't come with the list of sideeffects we are used to from pharmaceutical adds (higher electricity prices, medical bills, etc.). Interesting that all the "believers" featured can't seem to spit out the word "coal." Hard to be a convincing believer when you appear to be embarrassed by your message.

COAL: The industry and its allies fire up a new outreach effort
Christa Marshall, ClimateWire reporter

The lobbying and outreach operation pushing for clean coal just got bigger, and its newest representative is not ruling out the prospect of a mandatory cap-and-trade

A new coalition that includes more than 40 U.S. companies -- including Peabody Energy and Duke Energy Corp. -- announced it will develop a federal lobbying effort on climate change and bring new advertising to the airwaves. It aims to push Congress to adopt legislation that includes a workable regulatory framework for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.

"So many people in this country still don't know half of their electricity comes from coal, and in some states it's more than 90 percent, " said Stephen Miller, the president of the new group, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

"It's America's fuel, and we have to tell them that."

In addition to coal producers, companies from the electricity generation, transportation, energy technology and equipment manufacturing industries will fund and constitute the new organization.

ACCCE consolidates two predecessor groups, the 1992-founded Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) and Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), the backer of the pro-coal "America's Power" campaign. That campaign will continue under the new organizational structure.

CEED previously focused on environmental policies at the state and regional levels, a structure that Miller said needed updating in today's political landscape.

The new coalition will not only establish a new federal lobbying presence but also stand behind a set of 12 principles for formulating national "carbon management" legislation, which recognizes a mandatory cap-and-trade program as an option, according to Miller.

A 'big step' for 'America's fuel'
"For a group getting coal industry money to signal an openness on cap and trade feels like a big step forward to me," said Manik Roy, director of congressional affairs at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "A lot of companies wouldn't have done that in the past."

Still, the coalition emphasized that such a mandatory system would have to stick with the 12 principles, which include a request that any emission cuts be "reasonable," with an understanding that many technologies to reduce emissions are not yet
commercially available.

The other 11 points, available on the coalition's Web site, range from a call for CCS to "become commercially deployable as soon as possible," with a solid stream of funding, to an emphasis on deploying U.S. technologies for carbon capture overseas via the State Department.

The group expects to take a position soon on the climate change legislation sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.), although Miller expressed concern to E&E TV that the bill may "push too far and too fast."
Renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear power and energy efficiency also should play a role in cutting emissions, said Miller, even if that means less coal being used at some power plants.

Asked about that point, Kraig Naasz, the president and chief executive of the National Mining Association, which represents many coal companies, said "we believe the nation is well-served if [energy] comes from a diversity of sources -- including energy savings through energy efficiency."

And a bigger pot of money for national advertising "Our analysis shows, however, that the nation will need more coal -- even in a carbon-constrained environment -- along with other fuels and increased efficiency," Naasz said, adding that he supports the 12 objectives and ACCCE's communications effort.

The prospect of increased advertising on clean coal doesn't worry the Sierra Club, which has called for a timeout on new coal-fired power plants because of their current role in emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"Every day, more money is being thrown into this campaign to try and convince the public that this dirty fuel is a smart move for energy," said Alice McKeown, who works on coal issues at the Sierra Club. "It's a sign that they are worried they are losing the battle."

ACCCE's formation has roots in an ABEC meeting in the fall of 2006 where industry members heard that "the mood of the country was shifting" and a more aggressive communications strategy was necessary. After that push, member companies have provided the coalition with a roughly $38 million annual starting communications budget that is expected to increase, Miller said.

"We'll be able to run advertising nationally, but also target messages in states and congressional districts," Miller said. "We didn't have a big enough campaign and pot of money to do that before."

The Big Lump Gets Thumped

From Grist

King Coal's year of rejection by banks, judges, and a whole lotta other folks

Earth Policy Institute just released this revelatory chronology of really sad, horrible, and depressing events in the life of the coal industry since February 2007. What's next -- will Santa be switching to lumps of dirt?

Additional commentary can be found at

26 February 2007 - James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a leading climate scientist, calls for a moratorium on the construction of coal-fired power plants that do not sequester carbon, saying that it makes no sense to build these plants when we will have to "bulldoze" them in a few years.

26 February 2007 - Under mounting pressure from environmental groups, TXU Corporation, a Dallas-based energy company, abandons plans for 8 of 11 proposed
coal-fired power plants, catalyzing the shift from coal-based to renewable energy development in Texas.

2 April 2007 - The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and that EPA's current rationale for not regulating this gas is inadequate.

3 May 2007 - Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signs a bill that prevents new power plants from exceeding 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour of electricity generated, creating a de facto moratorium on building new coal-fired power plants in the state.

30 May 2007 - Progress Energy, an energy company serving approximately 3.1 million customers in the Southeast, announces a two-year moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

2 July 2007 - The Florida Public Service Commission denies Florida Power & Light the permits needed to move forward with the massive 1,960-megawatt coal-fired Glades Power Park, citing uncertainty surrounding future carbon costs.

13 July 2007 - Florida Governor Charlie Crist signs an Executive Order establishing "maximum allowable emission levels of greenhouse gases for electric utilities." Under the emissions cap, building new coal-fired power plants in the state seems unlikely.

18 July 2007 - Citigroup downgrades the stocks of Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal Inc., and Foundation Coal Holdings Inc., prominent U.S. coal companies. The decision
reflects the growing uncertainty surrounding coal's future in the United States.

18 August 2007 - After opposing new coal-fired power in Nevada, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that he is opposed to building coal-fired power plants anywhere.

18 October 2007 - The Kansas Department of Health and Environment denies Sunflower Electric Power Corporation air quality permits for two proposed 700-megawatt coal-fired generators on the basis that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant and should be regulated.

3 January 2008 - Merrill Lynch downgrades the investment ratings of Consol Energy Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp., two leading U.S. coal companies.

22 January 2008 - The Attorneys General of California, six eastern states, and the District of Columbia submit a letter to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control opposing the proposed 1,320-megawatt Pee Dee coal-fired power plant. They note that emissions from this plant would "seriously undermin[e] the concerted efforts being undertaken by multiple states to address global warming."

30 January 2008 - Citing escalating costs, the Bush administration pulls the plug on federal funding for FutureGen, a joint project with 13 utilities and coal companies to build a demonstration coal-fired power plant that captures and sequesters carbon.

4 February 2008 - Investment banks Morgan Stanley, Citi, and J.P. Morgan Chase announce that any future lending for coal-fired power plants will be contingent on the utilities demonstrating economic viability under future carbon costs. Demonstrating economic viability would require speculation of future costs, imposing a risk on the investment.

8 February 2008 - The U.S. Court of Appeals overturns two EPA mercury rules covering coal-fired power plants, thus requiring new coal-fired plants to implement the most stringent mercury controls available. Compliance is expected to raise the
considerable costs of 32 proposed coal plants, some already under construction.

12 February 2008 - Bank of America announces that it will start factoring in a cost of $20-40 per ton of carbon emissions in its risk analysis when evaluating loan applications from utilities.

19 February 2008 - The federal government suspends a low-interest loan program for rural utilities seeking assistance for new coal-fired power plants.

11 March 2008 - Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) introduce a bill that would block the EPA and states from issuing permits to new coal-fired power plants that lack state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage technology. Since this technology is at least a decade away from commercial viability, if this bill passes it would essentially place a near-term moratorium on new coal-fired power plants.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

SC's First Fuel? SC Utilities in Last Place

Below is a press release from another Southeastern electric utility, Florida Power and Light. It outlines how FPL plans to meet its customer's needs for electricity over the next ten years. Note the complete absence of coal from their plan. Also note how prominently energy efficiency is featured in their plan (it is considered FPL's "first energy resource").

Keep this in mind next time you hear certain utilities in our state claim that they can't do any thing significant with energy efficiency (or "demand-side management") -- how about nearly 2000 MW w/in ten years? FPL appears determined to climb the ranks of the best utilities when it comes to delivering energy savings to its customers.

How long will we allow Santee Cooper (and other utilities that serve our state) take up the "back of the pack" when it comes to helping us save energy and lower our bills? Click here for a incomplete ranking of utilities in terms of how much energy they save every year. Note how our guys stack up against the competition.

FPL releases strategic plan for meeting Florida's energy needs

JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Florida Power & Light Company filed its 10-year plan for meeting the state’s energy needs with the Florida Public Service Commission today, outlining a strategy that combines prudent additions in generating capacity with industry-leading demand-side management programs that will avoid the need to build four medium-sized power plants.

FPL, which currently serves 4.5 million customers in 35 counties, projects it will need an additional 5,600 megawatts of power, or an increase of about 25 percent, to meet rising demand through 2017. FPL expects its customer base to grow to 5.3 million by 2017, coupled with a 16 percent increase in energy use per residential customer.

“We expect a significant increase in demand for electricity over the next decade, and we will meet this demand by maximizing our proven energy efficiency programs and by providing our customers with additional energy that is safe, dependable, efficient and clean,” said FPL President Armando Olivera.

Highlights of FPL’s “Ten Year Power Plant Site Plan, 2008-2017” include:

-Upgrades to FPL’s existing nuclear plants at Turkey Point and St. Lucie to generate additional emission-free energy.

-A proposed expansion of renewable energy from a variety of sources, especially solar power.

-Construction of a clean natural gas unit at the company’s West County Energy Center in Palm Beach County.

-Potential repowerings and additional clean natural gas-fired generation to
continue to provide reliable electric service to our customers.

“The plan we have outlined will reduce the rate of carbon dioxide emissions though
energy conservation and cleaner generation, promote stability in customer bills by increasing nuclear capacity, and create the option for repowering aging plants if a third gas plant at West County is approved,” said Olivera.

In addition, FPL’s industry-leading demand-side management (DSM) programs are expected to avoid the need for 1,850 megawatts of generation, or four medium-sized natural gas plants. To date, FPL’s DSM efforts have avoided the need to build 12 power plants. “For FPL, conservation is the first energy resource used to meet customer demand,” Olivera said.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Americans for Burning Every Chunk of Coal

Readers of this blog are already familiar with the folks at Americans for Balanced Energy Choices and the $35 million dollars they are spending during the 2007-2008 presidential campaign to convince us that coal is god's gift to humanity, but there is a new pro-coal group in town that everyone should be aware of: Americans for Burning Every Chunk of Coal.

ABECC unveiled their website yesterday, April 1, 2008 with a simple message: "COAL: IT'S A SMALL PRICE TO PAY ...TODAY."

The website is so persuasive that we here at CleanEnergySC have begun to wonder if we haven't got it all wrong ...Nah.

Fossil Fools Day Action

From the "It's Getting Hot in Here!" blog, coverage of an anti-Pee Dee coal plant rally held by College of Charleston students in honor of international Fossil Fools Day. Apparently these students are not interested in enrolling in the so called "Energy Campus" planned for the Pee Dee. Go College of Charleston!

Foolin’ With South Carolina’s Coal Kings
Published by sethgunning, April 2nd, 2008

By Carly Sothoran

College of Charleston students and Charleston community members joined thousands of people across the globe in an international day of action against the fossil fuel industry. Alliance for Planet Earth, the student environmental group at the College, hosted a rally in Marion Square where participants demanded a halt to Santee Cooper’s proposed coal plant to be located on the Great Pee Dee River.

Over 50 protestors addressed the ridiculousness of a new coal plant by dressing in clown outfits, waving signs and handing out “coal plants.” Numerous petition signatures were collected against the coal plant and pedestrians received informational flyers on clean energy alternatives. “Today’s event was about letting the youth’s voice be heard, encouraging people to take action and insisting that Santee Cooper invest in efficiency and renewable energy rather than a new dirty coal plant” said event spokesperson and Alliance for Planet Earth member Carly Sothoron.

Guest speakers, Ian Sanchez of Lowcountry Environmental Education program and Dr. Matt Wasson of Appalachian Voices, discussed the absurdity of building a technologically outdated coal plant in South Carolina and the advantages of energy efficiency and renewable sources like wind and solar. “Building this coal plant from an economic, health, and environmental view is a kick in the teeth to the young and future generations” stated Dr. Wasson.

Our state spends over $740 million a year on out of state coal. If we want an energy independent South Carolina, it is time to invest in our own home grown energy sources. This new coal plant will emit 3,500 tons of ozone-forming nitrous oxide, 7,500 tons of soot-forming sulfur dioxide, and 900 tons of lung-damaging particulate matter each year, along with 8.7 million tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. According to DHEC’s draft air permit, this plant is permitted to emit annually 138 pounds of toxic mercury!

Enough fooling around with fossil fuels! Clean energy and efficiency will make South Carolina a healthier and greener place to live.
More coverage (and pictures of the rally!) over at the "Go Green Charleston Blog."