August 25, 2009

A Look Back on a Successful Struggle

From today's Florence Morning News, a look back at our coal fight:


Below is a timeline of the events surrounding Santee Cooper’s Pee Dee Energy Campus, a 600-megawatt coal-fired generation facility located on a 2,709-acre tract in Kingsburg scheduled to become operational sometime after 2012.

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

* 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.

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

* 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.

* 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.

* 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.

* April 30, 2007: 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.

* May 2, 2007: Florence County Council announces its support for proposed plant.

* July 12, 2007: The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control hosts an informal public meeting to answer questions about the proposed facility.

* July 17, 2007: Columbia-based environmental consulting firm, LPA Group, Inc, is selected to perform an evaluation of the environmental impact statement.

* Sept. 17, 2007: DHEC issues the draft of the Prevention Significant Deterioration despite many requests not to by conservationists and some residents.

* Sept. 27, 2007: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosts two public scoping meetings to hear the concerns of residents affected by the proposed plant.

* Oct. 25, 2007: 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.

* Oct. 31, 2007: Health care professionals in the Pee Dee gather to protest the plant, citing a variety of health issues as a reason for DHEC to deny the draft air permits.

* Nov. 8, 2007: DHEC hosts 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 400 residents of the area who are against the plant.

* Dec. 13, 2007: Francis Marion University professors conduct an in-depth look into the economic benefits of the proposed coal plant, determining a total of $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.

* Jan. 22, 2008: Formation of the Pee Dee Supporters for Progress is announced in support of the plant.

* Jan. 23, 2008: Conservation groups release 136-page analysis of coal plants, detailing potentially harmful effects.

* Jan. 29, 2008: Attorney’s General from eight states urge DHEC to reconsider the draft air permits.

* Feb. 8, 2008: 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.

* March 3, 2008: Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter defends the need for the coal-fired facility to the members of the Florence Rotary Club.

* March 19, 2008: Santee Cooper announces plans to move forward with the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT), as required by the federal court’s ruling in February.

* March 27, 2008: 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.

* April 11, 2008: 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.

* July 1, 2008: Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter announces plans to submit the final Maximum Achievable Control Technology analysis to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control during a press conference at Dozier M. Munn Pamplico Public Library. Carter also outlines an updated generation plan, which included a mercury education initiative, as well as the hiring of a new member to the power plant’s team, Dr. Gail Charnley, a toxicology specialist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The mercury education initiative, entitled “The Real Story on Mercury,” is a comprehensive effort to provide the public with accurate information on an often misinterpreted subject.

* July 28, 2008: Opponents of the proposed Pee Dee Energy Campus gather at Wilson High School to discuss concerns about the plant during a meeting organized by local community activists.

* Sept. 22: Residents from across Darlington County attended a meeting organized by local community activists at Mayo High School for Math, Science & Technology in Darlington to learn more about the Pee Dee Energy Campus.

* Oct. 23: Hundreds of people pack the Hannah-Pamplico gymnasium to make their voices heard about the Pee Dee Energy Campus during DHEC’s first formal public hearing on the matter.

* Dec. 10: The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce and the S.C. Wildlife Federation meet in Columbia to ask the Santee Cooper Advisory Board to take a closer look at plans for the utility’s Pee Dee Energy Campus and consider the opinions of community members when making their decision. The advisory board consists of the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general and comptroller general for South Carolina.

* Dec. 16: DHEC announces its approval of the air quality permit for the proposed Pee Dee Energy Campus.

* Dec. 31: A coalition of environmental groups join to appeal DHEC’s decision to approve the air permit for the Pee Dee Energy Campus.

* Jan. 16: National conservation leaders gather with local environmentalists to discuss the validity of the Pee Dee Energy Campus.

* Feb. 11: On the eve of the DHEC’s review conference of the Pee Dee Energy Campus, Gov. Mark Sanford announces his opposition to the proposed facility.

* Feb. 12: A majority of DHEC Board members vote against remanding the original air permit for the Pee Dee Energy Campus. The majority of the board members said although they believe the permit was issued legally, their decision doesn’t mean they like the idea of a coal-fired power plant.

* April 8: Local environmentalists decide on their own to investigate the mercury content in the Great Pee Dee River to prove the proposed Santee Cooper coal-fired power plant to be a bad decision by cutting volunteers’ hair to be tested for elevated mercury levels.

* April 13: The Southern Environmental Law Center files an appeal on behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, the S.C. Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club asking the courts to rescind the air permits DHEC issued to Santee Cooper in February for the Pee Dee Energy Campus.

* April 22: Opponents of the Pee Dee Energy Campus gather in Columbia to announce the findings of a new study regarding rate increases for Santee Cooper customers, which they say supports their arguments.

* May 7: A summarization report is released by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, two national environmental watchdog groups, showing the Environmental Protection Agency researched the safety of coal-fired facilities, but never released the findings of the study.

* July 27: Santee Cooper’s board meets in Myrtle Beach to get public feedback on a proposed rate increase, while a group of local environmental activists gathered to protest both the increase and the utility’s plans for the Pee Dee Energy Campus.

* Aug. 24: Santee Cooper’s board votes to suspend permitting for the Pee Dee Energy Campus.

Florence Spared a Dirty Coal Plant

From the Florence Morning News:
PINOPOLIS — Santee Cooper said the economy and uncertainty over the cost of possible cap-and-trade legislation are two reasons its board has voted to suspend permitting for a proposed coal-fired power generation facility in Kingsburg.

The board of the state-owned utility took its vote Monday, when a committee recommended the suspension of permitting for the $1.25 billion facility for these reasons, as well as reduced power load requirements.

The power load reduction would result from another board vote to allow Central Electric Power Cooperative Inc. to remove 1,000 megawatts from Santee Cooper’s system over seven years beginning in 2013.

“Any of those three items would cause us to cancel (the facility). ... We’re going to put it on hold and sit tight,” board Chairman O.L. Thompson said after the meeting.


Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter said that if the circumstances continue as expected, he thinks the project will ultimately be canceled.

“We’re not in the business of building power plants,” he said after the meeting. “We’re in the business of providing low-cost, reliable power.”


Opponents of the proposed Kingsburg plant said they applauded Santee Cooper’s board for their decision.

“I think it moves us toward a clean-energy future,” said Peggy Brown of Florence, who represented the League of Women Voters and state Sierra Club. “I’m very grateful for Santee Cooper’s commitment to their energy-efficiency programs.”

The board also voted Monday to extend its energy-efficiency loan program from $5.5 million to $10 million.

“Obviously, I want the ultimate decision to be that the coal plant will never be built and that (Santee Cooper) will focus on” energy efficiency and invest in renewable energy, said Nancy Cave, North Coast Office director for the Coastal Conservation League.

John Ramsburgh, climate and energy director for Conservation Voters of South Carolina, said the board’s vote “reflects a national trend” against coal and toward clean, efficient energy.

“We look forward to passing strong federal climate legislation that will create jobs and promote an energy-independent South Carolina,” he said.
Read the full article at

Victory! Coal Plant Nixed

From the State:

PINOPOLIS — Ending months of private discussions, Santee Cooper’s governing board abandoned plans Monday to build a $2.2 billion coal-fired power plant that had sparked an uproar in South Carolina over the need for the energy complex and its potential environmental impacts.

The Santee Cooper board agreed the state’s sluggish economy, the expense of looming federal carbon regulation — and an agreement with another power company — have made it possible to forgo building the power station along the Great Pee Dee River in Florence County.

O.L. Thompson, the Santee Cooper board chairman, said that while the state-owned utility reserves the right to pursue the coal plant at a later time, he doubts that will happen.

The 11-member board voted unanimously to stop seeking environmental permits for the plant. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control has approved an air pollution permit, but that is under appeal. State and federal water quality and wetlands permits are pending.

“The likelihood of us ever activating it is remote,’’ Thompson said of the coal plant.


Monday’s vote was a blow to many political leaders who saw the Great Pee Dee River plant as a way to pump up the economy of rural Florence County.

But the decision was a resounding victory for the state’s environmental community, which had kept a steady drumbeat of opposition to the plant for more than two years.


“I’m thrilled,’’ said Nancy Cave, who organized efforts against the plant for the S.C. Coastal Conservation League. “We don’t need this coal plant. It’s like they (Santee Cooper’s board) have woken up.’’

Using coal as way to provide electricity is an increasingly debatable plan. The fossil fuel, which in many cases is mined by blowing off the tops of mountains, is considered a major source of greenhouse gas pollution when burned in power plants to create electricity. Many states have abandoned plans for coal plants.

Santee Cooper’s coal plant annually would have released up to 10 million tons of carbon dioxide and as much as 93 pounds of mercury. The utility had applied for permits for two units to generate 1,320 megawatts, but said it only planned to build one.


Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper’s chief executive, said the plant is expensive and unnecessary in tough economic times. Santee Cooper’s overall sales are down 5 percent from last year, he said. Dropping the coal plant makes it imperative that Santee Cooper gain permission to build a nuclear plant north of Columbia with SCE&G, he said.
Read the full story at the

Coal-fired power plant shelved

From today's Post and Courier:
Three years' worth of controversy surrounding Santee Cooper's planned Pee Dee coal plant all but died Monday when the public utility's board voted to suspend the project.

The decision hinged on three key reasons: The economic recession lightened Santee Cooper's demand and pulled sales down 5 percent from last year; proposed federal regulations call for new, costly technology on plants; and the utility's biggest customer, Central Electric Power Cooperative, plans to shift 1,000 megawatts of its load to North Carolina-based Duke Energy beginning in 2013.

Santee Cooper president and chief executive Lonnie Carter said that although the vote was termed a "suspension," that language merely creates a safety net in case the Central deal falls through or another major change in business restores the need for more power.

Laura Varn, Santee Cooper vice president of corporate communications, called that possibility remote and said the board would have to take formal action to restart plans or to cancel the plant for good. Although utility officials would not provide a time line for making that final step, Varn noted a March deadline for Central to back out from its transfer without penalty.

The vote marked a major victory for environmental groups around the state that had watched the plant progress over the past few years. Carter praised the decision as an example of Santee Cooper doing "the right thing."


Environmental groups, which came from around the state to attend the meeting, praised the decision to suspend the plant in the meantime.

Peggy Brown, a board member for the South Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club and national resource director with the League of Women Voters, said the vote marked a great day for South Carolinians. Brown lives in Florence, near the plant's intended site.

Ben Moore with the Coastal Conservation League said the decision "positioned South Carolina well to develop the state's next chapter when it comes to energy, and that is no longer going to be coal."

And from Blan Holman, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center: "It is fitting that on this last day of the Cash for Clunkers program, the Santee Cooper board has spared South Carolinians from buying a ... clunker coal plant."
Read more at the Post and Courier.

August 24, 2009

Santee Cooper nixes plan for coal plant

Santee Cooper nixes plan for coal plant

Sammy Fretwell - McClatchy Newspapers

PINOPOLIS -- Santee Cooper will not pursue construction of a controversial coal-fired power plant that has drawn intense opposition from environmentalists over the amount of mercury and greenhouse gas pollution the facility would release.

A committee of the state-owned utility voted this morning to suspend an effort to secure permits for the $2.2 billion plant in Florence County along the Great Pee Dee River. The full Santee Cooper board is expected to ratify the vote at noon today.

The agency's action makes it unlikely the plant will ever be built, said Santee Cooper board Chairman O.L. Thompson.

Read more

August 23, 2009

End is Near

Utility chief: we may pull the plug on coal-fired plant

Santee Cooper’s board chairman said Friday the utility might not need a coal-fired power plant in the Pee Dee region if a handful of South Carolina electric cooperatives buy their power from rival Duke Energy.

O.L. Thompson, who heads the 11-member governing board, said the panel is expected to take action Monday on whether to allow a representative of the cooperatives, which are supplied by Santee Cooper, to strike a deal with Duke on their behalf.

If five Upstate cooperatives begin receiving energy from Duke instead of Santee Cooper, it will free capacity for his utility, Thompson said.

“If that load comes off, we may not need Pee Dee,” Thompson said of the proposed Florence County power plant. “If the economy stays like it’s projected to stay, that might be enough to keep us out of Pee Dee.”

Santee Cooper has long said it needs the $2.2 billion power station to meet future demands until a new nuclear plant can be built north of Columbia. But critics say the slow economy, the environmental impact of burning coal and expensive new federal regulations make it important to abandon the complex along the Great Pee Dee River.

Thompson spoke with The State a day after the newspaper reported Duke was in discussions to supply power to cooperatives Santee Cooper serves.

The chairman said he doubts the Santee Cooper board would vote Monday to drop the coal plant or make a final decision any time soon because the Duke agreement might take time.

But he said the utility “might delay it or put it on hold.”

Read more here

August 22, 2009

Coal Plant Plan Toppling

Exclusive: Energy deal may kill coal plant plan

South Carolina’s electric cooperatives are negotiating to buy power from Duke Energy in a move that could be the death knell for a planned coal-burning power plant near Florence.

The plant, proposed by state-owned Santee Cooper, has drawn waves of opposition over its potentially negative environmental impact and $2.2 billion cost. But Santee Cooper and supporters have long maintained the plant would provide much-needed power and jobs to economically depressed eastern South Carolina.

Now, the Central Electric Power Cooperative — a major customer of Santee Cooper — is talking with the North Carolina-based Duke about buying energy for five of its 20 member companies, said Dukes Scott, director of the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff.

If the cooperatives complete a deal with Duke, it could eliminate the need for the power station Santee Cooper has proposed along the Great Pee Dee River, said Scott and three sources familiar with the negotiations.


Electric cooperatives are motivated to buy from Duke because they believe it will be cheaper than helping pay for a new coal plant in Florence County, energy experts said Thursday.

Scott said his agency supports the sale because it would keep retail costs down for customers. His agency looks at customer interests in rate cases and other utility matters for investor-owned utilities, which include Duke but not the state-owned Santee Cooper.


Ann Timberlake, director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, said cooperatives are doing the right thing in discussing a purchase of energy from Duke.

“This is very exciting news and confirms some things we’ve been hearing for a while,’’ Timberlake said. “It’s hard for them to justify to their customers the risky investment in coal if there is a viable option.’’

It’s unclear what energy source Duke would use to supply power to the cooperatives, but the company has two nuclear plants near Charlotte and is building a coal-fired plant nearby.

In many states, plans to build coal-fired power stations have been scrapped because of the environmental consequences associated with burning fossil fuels. Buying from Duke would allow South Carolina to avoid the problems of dealing with potentially harmful air pollution from the proposed Pee Dee plant.

Environmentalists have waged a steady campaign against the plant during the past two years and have challenged state permits for the plant in court.

Read more here.

August 17, 2009

Santee Cooper Board Meeting Next Monday

There will be a Santee Cooper board meeting next Monday, August 24th.

It is open to the public. Santee Cooper will discuss a revision to their plan to build the Pee Dee coal plant and will vote on whether or not to raise rates (in part) to pay for it.

Please come and find out what Santee Cooper is up to!

Follow the Santee Cooper board here.

Read the meeting agenda here.

August 13, 2009

Michigan's Energy Efficiency Opportunity

Reports by Crains, Bay City Times and Gongwer from yesterday's telepresser on the NRDC report, A Green Energy Alternative for Michigan. Reports compiled by Progress Michigan..


A new report out Tuesday says just by turning off a few more lights, using a few more yards of insulation and practicing other common sense acts of energy efficiency Michigan consumers could save $3 billion in electricity costs over the next 20 years.

Synapse Energy Economic, a consulting firm on energy and environmental issues, was hired to review Michigan's energy plan by the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago.

The report: A Green Energy Alternative for Michigan, is "a deep analysis" of the state's projected electricity demand, the liabilities associated with air and global warming pollution, as well as the opportunities offered by clean energy technologies for job creation, industrial investment, and resilience in the face of changing circumstances.

While he seemed to favor alternative fuels over fossil, wind topping them all, author David Schlissel said the best way to provide for the state's power demands is actually an aggressive energy efficiency program.

Based on demand that is decreasing now and then projected to go flat, energy efficiency, combined with 27,000 giga-watt hours of power from clean energy technologies can fulfill the state's power needs, the report stated.

The report's conclusions are contrary to the 21st Century Energy Plan submitted to the Public Service Commission in 2007, which didn't take the recession into account. The new report found demand will actually have decreased by about 10 percent over two years by the end of this year.

"It's a sad reflection of the economy, but it's also an opportunity for the state to expand the types of energy it uses without having to worry about meeting new energy demands," said Mr. Schlissel.

But Jeff Holyfield, spokesperson for Consumers Energy disagreed, saying one can't just look at Michigan's demand during a recession and base future needs upon it.

"We've seen demand drop during hard times before but it rises after and keeps rising," he said. "We can't use the drop in demand to delay new power plants because there's such a long lead time to get them going. If you wait until you really need the power to start building it, then you're too late."

The report also reviewed plans by Consumers Energy, including its projections that building a new coal fired plant will have a positive environmental impact because it will replace older, less efficient plants.

The timing of the report coincides with the closing of the public comment period for the new coal-burning plant Consumers is planning to build near Bay City.

Anne Woiwode, state director for the Sierra Club, said she expects there will be about 5,000 comments against the coal plant.

"It's very clear that it's time for Michigan to move beyond dirty coal," she said.

But Mr. Holyfield said he'd expect that just as many people probably commented in favor of the Bay City project, which is set to be generating about 830 Megawatts per hour of power by 2017, enough power to fuel a city of 535,000 people.

In sum, said Mr. Schlissel, despite what Consumers Energy repeatedly says, there is no such this as "clean burning coal."

"The new plants are less dirty for some criteria pollutants, but they still emit mercury, small particulates, CO2 and five other greenhouse gases," he said.

Overall, Mr. Holyfield said, he agrees with the report that everyone could be doing a better job at energy efficiency and demand side management (lowering peak usage amounts).

In fact, in Consumer's updated plan, wind and other renewable energy power sources are blended with "clean coal," since it burns 10 to 15 percent cleaner than in years past, taking a well rounded approach to energy use the way the report does, he said.

But, Mr. Holyfield says he stops short at saying that simply by aggressively maintaining efficiency and using alternative fuels to fill in the gaps, the state would be able to provide enough power.

Scott Simons, spokesperson for DTE Energy, agreed.

He said even though his company offers a slew of incentives for customers to trim back their energy usage, trade in their energy guzzling appliances for new ones and use alternative fuels, "there will always be a need for fossil fuels or nuclear power. The wind doesn't blow all the time and the sun doesn't shine at night," he said. "But we still need energy, especially on those 80 degree days when people are cranking up their air conditioners."

Both utility officials said they plan to use wind primarily to meet the renewable fuel standard of 10 percent by 2015, adding that even if they wanted to invest more in alternative fuels, at a cost of about three times what fossil fuels cost, it would be prohibitive for most consumers.

But a mix of energy efficiency programs and wind energy usage could be good news for the economy if a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts is accurate.

According to Ms. Woiwode, the university compared how many jobs a $1 million investment would bring in coal, wind and in energy efficiency, and energy efficiency won by a long shot, with 17 jobs created for every $1 million invested, compared to 6.9 jobs in coal and 13 in wind.

As for what policymakers can do, the report said they "are on the cusp of making important decisions regarding the state's energy future."

Establishing the renewable mandate was a good start and making the 21st Century Energy Plan was also laudable, although that plan is already out of date and needs revision, the report concluded, adding that the state is also still too reliant on coal power.

August 12, 2009

Electricity Prices Plummet

A fascinating article from today's Wall Street Journal. Below I have exerpted some of the more interesting segments. Does Santee Cooper management read the Journal?

Slack demand for electricity across the U.S. is leading to some of the sharpest reductions in power prices in recent years, offering a break for consumers and businesses who just a year ago were getting crunched by massive electricity bills.

The falloff in demand represents a reversal of what has been one of the steadiest trends in business. For decades, the utility sector could rely on a gradual increase in electricity demand. In 45 of the past 58 years, year-over-year growth exceeded 2%. In fact, there only have been five years since 1950 in which electricity demand has dropped in absolute terms.

"There's more supply than demand and prices are really low so it doesn't make sense to build anything," says John Shelk, president of the Electric Power Supply Association in Washington, D.C., a group that represents power generators.

Many electricity markets throughout the country have implemented demand reduction programs that give consumers a further incentive to reduce power use. The 13-state PJM Interconnection market has been one of the most aggressive -- and has seen one of the steepest price drops.

A new report from the region's official market monitor found a strong correlation between falling prices and an increase in demand-reduction programs. In the PJM market, energy users can collect money through an auction process for pledging to cut energy use in future periods.

In May, PJM conducted an auction to ensure it will have the resources it believes it will need in 2012-13. About 6% of the winning bids came from those who pledged to cut energy use by a total of 8,000 megawatts in that future period.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal

August 11, 2009

Harrell: Focus on Alternatives

From Monday's Post and Courier: (note that coal does NOT appear in Harrell's list of SC-specific alternatives...)
Just imagine how our economy and way of life could change if the billions of petrodollars we send to unfriendly oil-controlling countries were instead pumped into our own domestic energy industries. A viable alternative energy — produced by Americans and controlled by Americans — will allow our economy to grow, take away the best weapon terrorists have, and protect American lives.

Prosperity follows energy, and we will need more energy in the future if we intend to grow our economy. But we have become a nation dependant on dwindling fossil fuels. This is partly because of a lack of energy alternatives, but in reality, it is because we have lacked the determination to develop them.

The good news is that in South Carolina, we are now actively pursuing this goal of energy independence. Along with nuclear, biomass, hydroelectric, solar and wind energy, hydrogen has emerged as a promising new energy source. Since the only byproduct of hydrogen energy is pure water, it is proving to be one of the cleanest energy sources being pursued. And right here in South Carolina, we are leading the country and the world in the race to develop hydrogen technology. Teaming up with private industries and our research universities, we are making substantial headway in developing this technology.

Industry is getting involved in this new opportunity and that is attracting more private interest and investments — investments that will create sorely needed jobs and grow our economy. Already, we are seeing real-world applications of hydrogen fuel cells in the market. Bridgestone Firestone Manufacturing in Aiken is converting its entire forklift fleet to run on more efficient and cost-effective hydrogen fuel cells. Television stations are using hydrogen to power some of their cameras. It is even being used to power the scoreboard at USC's baseball stadium.

This effort to move our country beyond foreign oil will take leadership and a willingness to break from the status quo ideas about energy. I am confident that the people of South Carolina have this ability and have the vision to see the thriving economic engine that rests just over the horizon.
Read the rest in the Post and Courier.

August 10, 2009

Navy Admiral Warns Us to take Climate Change Seriously

From the pages of the Post and Courier, Retired Vice Admiral of the Navy, Dennis McGinn tells us that "It is vital that America maintain the economic and physical security that has allowed us to become the world's leading nation for good on every front. With vision and bold action now, we will ensure that the 21st Century does not turn out to be more violent than the 20th."

How? By addressing climate change:
America's long-term prosperity, quality of life and, in a very real sense, our national security, demand that we immediately add climate change to the considerations guiding national security policy, and that both our civilian and military sectors act decisively to help stem the tide of environmental damage.

The U.S. must take a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Other nations are moving ahead and the U.S. must not only join but be in the forefront of this effort. America's military forces can contribute to national solutions as a technological innovator and early adopter.

Our Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines can not only increase their mission effectiveness but can become more "green" and show the rest of us how to follow suit. The numerous military bases here in South Carolina can be among the innovation trend-setters.

We also must put a true cost on carbon emissions and wean ourselves from overdependence on overseas oil sources — for which the high price of access has been entanglement in dangerous regional conflicts.
Read more of the Admiral's argument underlying the deep connection between the threat of climate change and our nation's national security. Consider why utilities like Santee Cooper are on the side of weakening our nation by knowingly building another costly coal plant that will significantly contribute to global warming. If its not good for the U.S.A., how can it be good for S.C.?

August 5, 2009

World's Foremost Business Experts Back Efficiency

From the New York Times:
The biggest opportunity to improve the nation's energy situation is a major investment program to make homes and businesses more efficient, according to a study released Wednesday by the consulting firm McKinsey. An investment of $520 billion [21% of what we have spent so far bailing out Wall Street banks, which is $2.5 trillion--P.M.] in improvements like sealing ducts and replacing inefficient appliances could produce $1.2 trillion in savings on energy bills through 2020, the study found.

The report said such a program, if carried out over the next decade, could cut the country's projected energy use in 2020 by about 23 percent, a savings that would be "greater than the total of energy consumption of Canada," Ken Ostrowski, a senior partner in McKinsey's Atlanta office, said at a forum in Washington on Wednesday. It would also more than offset the growth in energy use that would be expected otherwise.

"The scale is vast if we can put together the means to pursue it," Mr. Ostrowski said.
McKinsey's report is the latest in a series of reports that have concluded that energy efficiency should be the nation's priority resource, capable of meeting the majority of the nation's future energy needs.

The same has been shown to be true in the Southeast and in South Carolina. Until Santee Cooper develops and implements an robust energy efficiency program (right now it's programs are anemic and unproductive), efforts to build an expensive, dirty coal plant should be opposed.

August 3, 2009

My Children Don’t Want a Coal Plant on the Great Pee Dee River

From the Delete Apathy blog:

Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state owned utility is planning to build a 1320 MW coal fired power plant on the banks of the Great Pee Dee River in southern Florence County. This will be the state’s 13th coal plant and it will emit every year over 10 million tons of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas, 3.5 thousand tons of smog causing nitrous oxide, 7.5 thousand tons of sulfur dioxide or toxic soot, 93 pounds of mercury that contaminates fish and the people that eat them and over 900 tons of particulate matter, tiny particles that cause lung and heart disease and even death. The proposed plant will use 10 thousand tons of coal every day, much of it coming from decapitated Appalachian Mountains.
Mary Edna Fraser flew and photographed the Great Pee Dee River to make this film, starting at the mouth near Georgetown, and past Bostick Landing, which is already cleared for the coal plant with some drainage pools in place. Along the way, there are abundant wetlands, small towns, abandoned rice fields, and all kinds of development, from marsh shacks to subdivisions, that would be polluted by the plant.
The Great Pee Dee is the lifeblood of its mud banks and nearby towns. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resource, in their Great Pee Dee Scenic River project, reports:
The fishing opportunities in the Great Pee Dee River and its connected lakes include largemouth bass, bluegill and other sunfish, crappie perch and catfish. The lower portion of the river also includes several saltwater species. A mercury advisory is in effect for largemouth bass and bowfin caught in the Great Pee Dee Scenic River.
The Great Pee Dee River is mostly bordered by floodplain forest. As a high quality wildlife habitat, it supports 120 species of fish, at least 25 rare plant species, several endangered and threatened species (including the American alligator, red-cockaded woodpecker, bald eagle and swallow-tailed kite), 17 species of duck (all but the wood duck are migratory visitors), a number of wading birds and fur bearing species, and typical South Carolina game species, such as white tail deer and turkey. Sandy shores and bars turn to tidal swamps below confluence with the Little Pee Dee River. Freshwater tidal marshes that were once the basis for antebellum rice plantations begin to displace the tidal swamp forest downriver. The river is a dynamic, producing blackwater lake-like channels cut off from the rich brown flowing river.

Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state owned utility is planning to build a 1320 MW coal fired power plant on the banks of the Great Pee Dee River in southern Florence County. This will be the state’s 13th coal plant and it will emit every year over 10 million tons of CO2, the primary greenhouse gas, 3.5 thousand tons of smog causing nitrous oxide, 7.5 thousand tons of sulfur dioxide or toxic soot, 93 pounds of mercury that contaminates fish and the people that eat them and over 900 tons of particulate matter, tiny particles that cause lung and heart disease and even death. The proposed plant will use 10 thousand tons of coal every day, much of it coming from decapitated Appalachian Mountains.

We want to protect surrounding habitats and communities of the Great Pee Dee River by protesting this old technology through the Coastal Conservation League. This film has been submitted to the Second Annual Green Fair for inclusion in their “Music that Matters” contest with a children’s chorus to sing along. Mary Edna wrote the lyrics and music, and performed the song at her studio with Dana Downs at the initial Delete Apathy event.

read more here.

August 2, 2009

Press Release from SC Says No

Press Release from SC Says No
Nancy Cave & Ben Moore
July 27, 2009

Lack of leadership leaves Santee Cooper promoting increased electric rates to pay for dirty coal.

Energy efficiency would lower bills, avoid need for new coal.

Myrtle Beach, SC – Santee Cooper ratepayers called on Santee Cooper today to implement an aggressive, broad based energy efficiency plan to reduce electric bills, create more jobs and restore the state-owned utilities tradition of leadership. The appeal comes as Santee Cooper board members met to approve a 15 percent rate increase for residential customers over the next two years. Much of the proposed rate increase will pay for a multi- billion dollar coal plant on the Pee Dee River.

Due to rising costs of construction and operation of coal plants, as well as a discouraging regulatory environment, utilities across the country have cancelled plans for more than 90 plants in order to protect ratepayers from the high risks of coal. “Every other utility in our state has sworn off new coal plants because they are too expensive,” said Nancy Cave, Coastal Conservation League North Coast Director and Santee Cooper customer. “Other utilities are moving forward with energy efficiency, which is cleaner, cheaper and can more than adequately meet the energy demands of Santee Cooper’s customers.”

Energy efficiency, or programs and technologies designed to help ratepayers maintain or improve their standard of living while consuming less power, has been identified as a vast energy resource for the South. According to the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance, energy efficiency can reduce present day electricity use by 20 percent over the next several years, equivalent to 80 percent of the regions’ future power needs.

Santee Cooper advertises the rate hikes as the first since 1996. During the same period, however, the utility’s investments in programs that help its customers save energy and lower bills has decreased by nearly 70 percent.

“Lower income families already hurting from the recession can expect even higher bills, because their homes are so energy inefficient and poorly weatherized,” said, Grace Gifford, Clerk of Five Rivers Friends (Quakers) Meeting, and a member of SC Green Churches. Gifford continued, “Area churches will also see rate increases at the same time that their funds to help lower income families with their electric bills are drying up.” Gifford called on Santee Cooper to abandon the coal plant and help ratepayers lower their bills through efficiency.

SC Says No is a coalition of business, civic, student and conservation organizations that favors energy efficiency over Santee Cooper’s coal plant as a means to meet growing energy demand. Young people from across the state came to Myrtle Beach to participate in the public comment portion of the Santee Cooper Board meeting. Lorena Hildebrant, a student at Winthrop University, said, “Our generation cannot afford to live with the longstanding harmful effects of coal-fired energy. As young people, we realize the threat to our generation from climate change and environmental degradation, that is why we are asking Santee Cooper not to build a new coal fired plant.”

Santee Cooper rate payer and Wildlife Action Board Member, Bo Ives, said, “Now is not the time to raise the cost of living for South Carolinians by building another costly coal-burner. Santee Cooper can spend half as much on a modern energy savings program that will lower bills, generate jobs and offset the need for a new plant. Santee Cooper used to stand for improving the quality of life of South Carolinians. With a strong commitment to energy efficiency, it can lead us again”

August 1, 2009

Comments to the board of directors

Statement for Santee Cooper Board Meeting, July 27, 2009
Grace GiffordFive Rivers Friends (Quakers) Meeting

In Horry County, helping agencies such as Churches Assisting People, Catholic Charities and North Strand Helping Hand are already getting client requests for help with utility bills. With record unemployment and an economic turnaround still elusive, this situation has been an ongoing challenge.

Now the Santee Cooper Board is considering two rate hikes. The helping agencies will no doubt get more requests, and will have to say “no” more often to client requests. What can be done to keep the lights on for our struggling local families? How can faith communities continue to provide community safety net programs in the face of targeted rate hikes on churches?

In 2002, Santee Cooper and its Board placed a heavy burden on its rate payers and the citizens of the State. Yes, our own state utility polluted the environment beyond legal limits at the Winyah power plant in Georgetown, the Grainger Plant in Conway and two other plants. The Environmental Protection Administration was successful in a suit against Santee Cooper over these Clean Air Act violations. Rate payers and citizens must shoulder the cost of paying a $2 million civil penalty, $400 million to install pollution controls, and another $4.5 million for mitigation projects.

The deadline for funds expenditure is 2012.

Our current Santee Cooper Board must avoid court costs and fines and abide by the law in the future.

Our current Santee Cooper Board should work to apply any remaining mitigation funds to increase efficiency and reduce costs in low income households. These families must be spared the traumatic impact of rate increases.

Our current Santee Cooper Board should provide leadership by addressing our desperate need for jobs, jobs, jobs. Energy efficiency measures and home-based renewables such as solar hot water heaters can generate jobs, lower the peak and lower costs to low income families.

We call on the Santee Cooper Board to act with leadership to embrace efficiency measures. In these most difficult economic times, the current Board of Santee Cooper must act to fulfill its mission to help the public and care for God’s Creation as well.

July 29, 2009

Comments to the board of directors

Here are the comments I made to the board of directors on Monday.

"I oppose any act upon South Carolina that jeopardizes our state's environmental condition. We have jeopardized our Pee Dee River to the point of no ingestion of the river's fish. Well,...bring us some good fish Santee Cooper. Build us a fresh river. Of course you can't, obviously, but certainly not with a new coal plant. You will only worsen our state's condition. And as we gather here today, we discuss paying more to pollute. We will pay more to pollute. That is what you're advocating Santee Cooper. You have an opportunity to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The technology is developed, and our government will step in behind you with incentives and economic support. I am a South Carolinian and want the best for my state and I know you do too. I know you do. However, you want to build more coal, which is not in our heart's interest, and raise our rates, which is not in our pocket's interest. Thank you for your time."

A successful day

This last Monday, the league and others met in Myrtle Beach with Santee Cooper's board of directors. To all of you who showed, thank you for doing so; we had so many people! Nearly 30. We made a very big step in our battle for a greener South Carolina. People stood up for their state's economic interests and heart's interests. The board is now reevaluating their plans for the rates, which directly pertains to the coal plant. This is something the league asked the board to do in the spring -- they had said no, that they would not reevaluate their rates or future plans. Thank you for all your help, it is deeply appreciated, to the league and our beautiful state.

The SunNews
Groups take on energy rate rise by Santee Cooper
Adva Saldinger
July 28, 2009

Santee Cooper's plans to raise rates this year and build a coal-fired plant in Florence County were under fire Monday by a group of customers and environmental activists.

About 35 people spoke to the packed conference room at the Sheraton Conference Center and Hotel in Myrtle Beach.

The meeting was the eighth and final meeting before board members of the company vote on a proposed 10 percent rate increase in August.

The increase would be implemented over two years with a 4.5 percent increase Nov. 1 and a 5.5 percent increase on Nov. 1, 2010.

Grace Gifford, who was representing the Five River Friends Quakers Meeting, said the rate increases will put additional stress on people who are already struggling.

"Our current Santee Cooper board should provide leader ship by addressing our desperate need for jobs,'' she said. "Energy efficiency measures and home-based renewables such as solar hot-water heaters can generate jobs, lower the peak and lower costs to low income families.''

Laura Varn, a spokeswoman for Santee Cooper, said that the company has not increased the base rate in 13 years and that the cost of business has increased. Projections show that at current rates, costs will exceed revenues for Santee Cooper by the end of this year.

"The timing is bad, and we'll readily admit that,'' Varn said, adding that the company held off on the increases as long as possible.

Other speakers expressed their opposition to Santee Cooper's planned coal-fired power plant.

Nancy Cave, the Northcoast director of the Coastal Conser vation League, called on Santee Cooper to invest in energy- efficiency programs and alternative energy.

"We don't feel the coal plant is the right solution for this state,'' Cave said.

She said a coalition of groups has protested against the coal- powered plant at every step along the way, but that this meeting provided a unique opportunity to talk to the Santee Cooper board.

"I think there is a misconception that this rate increase is related to the Pee Dee facility, and that is not true,'' Varn said.

The costs of producing power have increased, and the rate increase will only pay for "minimal costs associated with the facility,'' she said.

Cave said her organization is calling on the company to intro duce energy-efficiency programs that save 1 percent of total elec tricity sales annually. Combined with falling demand, those savings would mean the plant was not necessary, she said.

"Our expertise from indepen dent analysts indicate that with the load now, we need that facility, plus energy efficiency, plus renew ables,'' Varn said.

Santee Cooper will launch $113 million in new energy efficiency programs this fall. The company has a goal of having 40 percent of electricity coming from nongreenhouse gas-emitting resources, biomass, energy efficiency and conservation by 2020, Varn said.

Peggy Brown, who was representing the League of Women Voters and the state Sierra Club, said the key is moving away from coal.

"I don't believe they provided a concrete, evidenced need for the plant,'' Brown said.

After public comments at the meeting, Santee Cooper Board Chairman O.L. Thompson asked the company's president to further evaluate the plans for the plant and come back to the board with an analysis or recommendation at the August meeting.

"This is a period of unprecedented challenges,'' Varn said. "We always evaluate and make sure we are where we need to be, and there are a lot of changes in the industry right now.''

Santee Cooper isn't the only Carolinas power company wanting to raise rates.

On Monday, Duke Energy Carolinas filed requests with the Public Service Commission of South

Carolina to make adjust ments to customer bills, including a general rate increase of 9.3 percent.

It would be the first general rate increase for the company since 1991.

To read this article, click here

July 23, 2009

Another Mini Bond Sale This Fall

Santee Cooper is having another mini bond sale this fall. Interest rates announced 9/23, orders taken 9/25-10/21.

Coal pollution can lower our IQs

Air pollution, from either cars, buses, trucks, or factories, such as coal plants, can reduce our IQs. The coal industry as a whole releases 97% of fine particle, or soot, and sulfur dioxide emissions, 92% of smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions, 100% of mercury emissions, and 86% of carbon dioxide emissions. Like automobiles, how could the industry not be linked to lowering our IQs?
Associated Press
Kids lower IQ scores linked to prental pollution
Lindsey Tanner
July 20, 2009

Researchers for the first time have linked air pollution exposure before birth with lower IQ scores in childhood, bolstering evidence that smog may harm the developing brain.

The results are in a study of 249 children of New York City women who wore backpack air monitors for 48 hours during the last few months of pregnancy. They lived in mostly low-income neighborhoods in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx. They had varying levels of exposure to typical kinds of urban air pollution, mostly from car, bus and truck exhaust.

At age 5, before starting school, the children were given IQ tests. Those exposed to the most pollution before birth scored on average four to five points lower than children with less exposure.

That's a big enough difference that it could affect children's performance in school, said Frederica Perera, the study's lead author and director of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health.

Dr. Michael Msall, a University of Chicago pediatrician not involved in the research, said the study doesn't mean that children living in congested cities "aren't going to learn to read and write and spell."

But it does suggest that you don't have to live right next door to a belching factory to face pollution health risks, and that there may be more dangers from typical urban air pollution than previously thought, he said.

"We are learning more and more about low-dose exposure and how things we take for granted may not be a free ride," he said.

While future research is needed to confirm the new results, the findings suggest exposure to air pollution before birth could have the same harmful effects on the developing brain as exposure to lead, said Patrick Breysse, an environmental health specialist at Johns Hopkins' school of public health.

And along with other environmental harms and disadvantages low-income children are exposed to, it could help explain why they often do worse academically than children from wealthier families, Breysse said.

"It's a profound observation," he said. "This paper is going to open a lot of eyes."

The study in the August edition of Pediatrics was released Monday.

In earlier research, involving some of the same children and others, Perera linked prenatal exposure to air pollution with genetic abnormalities at birth that could increase risks for cancer; smaller newborn head size and reduced birth weight. Her research team also has linked it with developmental delays at age 3 and with children's asthma.

The researchers studied pollutants that can cross the placenta and are known scientifically as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Main sources include vehicle exhaust and factory emissions. Tobacco smoke is another source, but mothers in the study were nonsmokers.

A total of 140 study children, 56 percent, were in the high exposure group. That means their mothers likely lived close to heavily congested streets, bus depots and other typical sources of city air pollution; the researchers are still examining data to confirm that, Perera said. The mothers were black or Dominican-American; the results likely apply to other groups, researchers said.

The researchers took into account other factors that could influence IQ, including secondhand smoke exposure, the home learning environment and air pollution exposure after birth, and still found a strong influence from prenatal exposure, Perera said.

The researchers said they plan to continuing monitoring and testing the children to learn whether school performance is affected and if there are any additional long-term effects.

To read this article, click here

July 21, 2009

What about an energy-efficiency survey?

Rate increase by 15%, little investments in renewable energy, and essentially no encouragement of energy-efficiency, that's where Santee Cooper tops the charts. Santee Cooper surveyed its customers covering small basic utility qualities: power quality and reliability, price, billing and payment, corporate citizenship, communications, and lastly, customer service. Note, none of these concern energy-efficiency. Of course Santee Cooper will receive positive ratings if it's energy is cheap. It's common sense.
Columbia Regional Business Report
Santee Cooper tops charts in customer satisfaction poll
Staff Report

July 16, 2009

Santee Cooper topped the charts in a customer satisfaction ranking released today by J.D. Power and Associates. The state-owned utility was No. 1 among midsized utilities in the South, and it also received the highest score in the nation among all utilities studied.

“Despite unprecedented economic and regulatory challenges in the electric power industry, Santee Cooper has steadfastly remained focused on providing excellent customer service,” said Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter said in a statement.

Santee Cooper is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary.

This is the second year that J.D. Power and Associates has released rankings for mid-sized utilities. The study measured six key factors:

  • Power quality and reliability

  • Price

  • Billing and payment

  • Corporate citizenship

  • Communications

  • Customer service

Customers gave Santee Cooper the highest score in the South midsized segment on price and communications.

“These study results demonstrate the positive impressions our customers have of Santee Cooper,” said Zack Dusenbury, Santee Cooper vice president of retail operations.

“I am particularly gratified and proud of retail operations and the employees who do what it takes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to maintain excellent customer satisfaction.”

According to J.D. Power and Associates, electric utility companies as a whole have improved power reliability and enhanced communications with their customers, especially when outages occur. This investment in communication technologies and processes is key to the industry’s overall improvement.

J.D. Power and Associates surveyed 79,552 customers online from July 2008 to May 2009, encompassing 121 utilities serving 92.4 million customers.

Click here to read this article

July 17, 2009

West Virginia's State Rock

This may be old news to some, but it's a somewhat comical and simultaneously sad. Imagine if South Carolina's state rock was Coal rather than Rose Quartz.

The New York Times
Green Inc.
West Virginia's New State Rock
Kate Galbraith

June 9, 2009

Coal has become the official rock of West Virginia.

Last week. Gov. Joe Manchin signed a resolution (text) giving the rock its new status, and declaring that the bituminous coal industry “remains essential to economic growth and progress in West Virginia and the United States.”

The resolution, which passed the state’s house of delegates 96-0 and was approved by the State Senate in a voice vote, also traces the noble history of the rock, from the time George Washington noted a “coal hill of fire” in what became West Virginia.

The Mountain State joins Kentucky and Utah, both of which have had coal as
their state mineral and state rock, respectively, for more than a decade.

The West Virginia movement was started, according to the West Virginia Coal Association, by a high school student who was a coal miner’s daughter.

“I realized the state didn’t have an official state rock,” the high school senior, Britnee Gibson, told the association, “and I thought, what better to be the state rock than coal?”

The resolution comes as the state’s coal industry encounters tough times, with some residents in West Virginia protesting the blasting of mountaintops to remove it.

The recession, too, has dampened demand for electricity, such that Consol Energy, a big coal company operating in the state, recently announced that it was idling two West Virginia mines.

To read this article, click here

July 15, 2009

Santee Cooper's demand down by 10%

Santee Cooper's demand is down 10 percent. Hm...So if demand is down, we don't actually need the coal plant? This great news for us. This is great news for energy-efficiency and renewable energy. We need to continue to emphasize energy-efficiency as our key fuel; we will convey that we do not need a new coal plant. We need a difference and perhaps if demand further drops, economic measures will drive our utilities to invest into something different - what we consumers are truly demanding -energy-efficiency and renewable energy.

The State
S.C. utilities say energy use down, despite the heat
Associated Press
July 13, 2009

South Carolinians are cutting their energy use this summer, despite the heat.

The State reported Monday the four major utilities serving South Carolina say energy use is either flat or down a bit, compared to last summer.

South Carolina Electric & Gas says residential use is down about 2percent. Spokesman Robert Yanity says the economy is affecting the utility's 650,000 customers in the Midlands and Lowcountry.

State-owned utility Santee Cooper says peak use has been down 10percent this year, compared to the hottest days last year.

Duke Energy's Paige Sheehan says the Charlotte utility expects sales to be flat. Duke has 600,000 customers in the Upstate.

Progress Energy says residential sales are growing, but industrial sales have dropped. Progress has about 200,000 customers in the Pee Dee.

Click here to read this article

SRS may become mercury repository

The Aiken Standard
SRS may become mercury repository
Mike Gellatly
July 7, 2009

The Savannah River Site is one of seven locations aiming to become the repository for thousands of tons of toxic mercury from commercial and governmental producers.

According to a listing in the Federal Register that announced the bids, 7,500 to 10,000 metric tons of mercury from private sources, in addition to large amounts of mercury already stored in government facilities, will be stored at the repository. The nongovernmental mercury would be brought in and housed over a period of 40 years.

The Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 requires the Department of Energy to designate a facility or facilities for the long-term management and storage of elemental mercury generated within the United States.

"Therefore, DOE intends to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to consider the impacts of the required action," according to DOE. "The long-term management and storage of elemental mercury EIS (mercury storage EIS) will evaluate alternatives for a long-term mercury storage facility or facilities to open no later than Jan. 1, 2013, the statutory start date for storage operations."

The preparation for the environmental impact statement will be a series of public meetings to discuss and get stakeholder input.

Locally, a meeting will take place at the North Augusta Municipal Center on July 30. DOE will hold these public "scoping" meetings from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., but the public participation period began July 1 and will continue through mid-August. Comments can be submitted online at a specific DOE website set up for the project -

As well as the storage option, DOE lists a no-action alternative, which would mean individual private concerns must store their own mercury as would public sites. This is set as a comparison to the seven sites selected for impact statements.

The notice in the Federal Register states that most of the private mercury comes from the production of chlorine, gold mining and is reclaimed as part of the recycling process.

The government mercury, approximately 5,600 tons, is stored in various facilities. Included in this are 1,200 tons at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Other than SRS the following will be evaluated: Grand Junction Disposal Site in Grand Junction, Colo., Hanford Site in Richland, Wash., Hawthorne Army Depot in Hawthorne, Nev., Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Kansas City Plant in Kansas City, Mo., and Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

To read this article, click here

July 14, 2009

Avoid coal, create jobs, save money

The State
Holman: Avoid coal, create jobs, save money
Blan Holman

Guest Columnist

A recent editorial admitted that a coal plant should not be built along the Pee Dee River, but warned that avoiding one would require sacrifice (“Everyone must sacrifice on coal plant plan,” Wednesday). But across the nation, investments in healthier, cheaper, job-generating energy sources make it plain that coal is the sacrifice. And it is a sacrifice we plainly can avoid making.

Building a coal plant today makes about as much sense as coating a child’s room with lead paint. The Pee Dee plant would emit 14 times more mercury than other plants, in an area already suffering from mercury contamination. It would spew thousands of tons of lung-damaging air pollution every year. And every day, it would inhale a mile-long train carting coal mined from decapitated Appalachian mountains, then exhale a mile-long train loaded with our money headed out of state.

Santee Cooper wants to raise rates to help pay for the plant’s $2.5 billion to $4 billion construction costs. But the real price will be higher due to coming controls on carbon dioxide, a main greenhouse gas. This plant would emit more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. If carbon costs $20 per ton, as appears likely, ratepayers will be stuck with an annual $200 million balloon payment.

These pollution and economic costs are why other utilities have sworn off new coal in South Carolina. As the editorial pointed out, Santee Cooper is unique in not having to prove to the Public Service Commission that a new plant is needed and economical. It also happens to be the only utility not pushing a new class of muscular energy-efficiency programs.

That is important because initiatives such as Duke Energy’s modified Save-A-Watt program — negotiated by Duke, conservationists and regulators — could displace the need for this plant. Duke will push a wide array of initiatives, with appliance replacements, energy audits and insulation upgrades being just a few. Far beyond just replacing light bulbs, this campaign will capture energy savings as a source of power.

Duke says it will capture 2 percent of system-wide power upgrades in four years, or 30 percent more power than the proposed Pee Dee plant could generate. Were Santee Cooper to boost efficiency by a mere 1 percent per year, it could forget the Pee Dee plant and save ratepayers millions if not billions of dollars, while creating thousands of local jobs for contractors hit hardest by the recession.

Renewable energy also could help knock out the coal plant. Just a few months ago, Sonoco announced it was replacing coal units in Hartsville with a boiler that burns woody refuse. Experts project South Carolina could develop a coal plant’s worth of renewable power over the next few years, utilizing crops, waste and river currents. Solar power and our state’s single-biggest renewable asset, offshore wind, could produce even more power, with new studies estimating that our coastal winds could generate more energy than 100 coal plants.

You don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way this is headed. Just over the border, North Carolina is developing the largest solar farm in the United States; Georgia, Delaware and New Jersey are pursuing large-scale wind power projects on their coasts. These projects mean jobs. Energy cropping, solar panels and wind towers require construction and skilled maintenance workers. Just ask the employees of General Electric’s wind turbine facility in Greenville.

Efficiency programs and renewable power provide a mature, proven path to energy security. Other states and utilities have proven this. We can do it here, despite those who insultingly suggest our citizens aren’t “educated enough” to want the lower power bills offered by efficiency. Nothing inherent in our climate, our people or our economy prevents us from doing as well as our neighbors.

What happens if, after maximized efficiency and renewables, we still need more power? Coal still would be the wrong answer. Santee Cooper’s own internal documents show carbon prices making natural gas, a much cleaner fuel, economically on par with coal. And like efficiency and renewables, but unlike nuclear power, natural gas could economically generate energy in the short term period said to justify coal.

In the end, most South Carolinians understand that coal would set our economy back, when what we need is a jump-start forward. The only thing the Pee Dee plant seems to have going for it is bureaucratic inertia, but day by day, even this is eroding under the flow of facts revealing the high costs of coal and the superiority of proven alternatives.

These facts are why citizens and companies have recently abandoned 100 coal plants in the United States. And they are why the Pee Dee plant should be number 101.

We have better options that would save money, conserve resources and boost employment. The only thing we need sacrifice is business as usual.

Mr. Holman is an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charleston.

Click here to read this article

July 10, 2009

Let's follow Georgia

Environmental News Service
Georgia Appeals Court Rules Against Coal-Fired Power Plant
July 7, 2009

July 7, 2009 (ENS) - The Georgia Court of Appeals today issued an order that will result in further delay of the Longleaf coal-fired power plant proposed for Early County, Georgia. Although the Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling invalidating the plant's air quality permit on several issues, it upheld the lower court decision on other issues. At this point, the draft air quality permit granted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division in May 2007 remains invalid.

The plant would be a 1200 megawatt coal-burning power plant along the Chattahoochee River, south of Columbus near the Georgia-Alabama state line. If built, it would be the first new coal-fired power plant in Georgia in over 20 years, but today's decision is the second legal defeat for the proposed plant in just 13 months.

The Longleaf unit is one of four new coal plants LS Power Development proposes to build around the nation. Longleaf Energy Associates, a branch of LS Power, originally proposed the plant. In March 2007, LS Power merged with Dynegy to form the largest builder of coal plants in the country. Civil rights advocates, healthcare providers, and patient advocacy groups around the state have lined up against the Dynegy Longleaf plant. The Medical Association of Georgia issued a resolution opposing any new coal-fired plants in the state.

The air quality permit was granted by the state over the objections of GreenLaw, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Chattahoochee, who mounted a legal challenge to the permit.The groups informed the Environmental Protection Division that in their opinion the proposed plant was being built without safeguards sufficient to protect Georgia residents from an array of toxins such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist.

The permit was invalidated by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore on June 30, 2008.The air quality permit was granted by the state over the objections of GreenLaw, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Chattahoochee, who mounted a legal challenge to the permit. The groups informed the Environmental Protection Division that in their opinion the proposed plant was being built without safeguards sufficient to protect Georgia residents from an array of toxins such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfuric acid mist. The permit was invalidated by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Thelma Wyatt Cummings Moore on June 30, 2008.

In reaching their decision, the three-judge panel agreed with the Superior Court on one key claim, that Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Howells was not independent in her evaluation of the Environmental Protection Division's decision to issue the permit. Judicial independence is a key component of ensuring that decisions that impact public health are properly scrutinized.

Because the Administrative Law Judge failed to make independent decisions in reviewing the permit, the permit remains invalid, further postponing construction of the plant. GreenLaw's challenge of the Longleaf air quality permit also challenged EPD's failure to include any limitations for the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and its failure to consider undisputed modeling that showed that the plant would exceed air quality standards. The Court of Appeals rejected the claim that the plant must limit its emmissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2.

GreenLaw and the other plaintiffs argue that Longleaf must establish a limit for CO2 based on the best available control technology because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that CO2 is a pollutant in April 2007 in the case of Mass. v. EPA.

The plaintiff groups argue that federal law requires a limit on any pollutant subject to regulation and plan to appeal that portion of the appellate court's ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court."We are extremely pleased that the Court of Appeals has required independent review of the errors that were made in the permitting of this plant," said Justine Thompson, executive director of GreenLaw. "However, we are very disappointed that the court rejected other important claims that are critical to the protection of public health. We feel confident that the Georgia Supreme Court will reverse on appeal."

"We are glad to see the court demanding independent review of EPD's decision before any coal-fired power plant can be built in this state. Burning coal creates some of the worst pollution, endangering human health," said Mark Woodall, chair of the Executive Committee Sierra Club of Georgia. "However, we are committed to ensuring that Georgia follows the law with respect to carbon dioxide and other pollutants, and will take what legal steps are necessary to ensure that this happens."

The plaintiff groups argue that coal-fired power plants are a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and global warming and there is no need to build a new one in the state of Georgia.Bobby McLendon, president of Friends of the Chattahoochee, said, "Many people in Early County do not believe that this plant is needed to meet any short-term energy demand in our region, or even in our state, and we hope that the business and civic leaders of Georgia will begin to put more emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy in the future."

To read this article, click here

July 9, 2009

The State
There are alternatives to coal-fired plant
James Williamson
July 8, 2009

As Santee Cooper, our state-owned utility, hikes rates by 15 percent over the next two years, let us not forget why. Revenues from the rate hike will be used to build the utility’s new polluting coal plant at a cost of about $2 billion. This proposed coal plant poses not only a financial risk to ratepayers, but an environmental and health risk to people and communities in Appalachia.
The coal plant will use approximately 12,000 tons of coal every day, and much of this coal comes from the mountain tops of Kentucky and West Virginia. One million acres of mountain tops have been destroyed, and the debris that is dumped in the valleys impacts communities and pollutes water supplies.

Santee Cooper’s new coal-guzzling power plant will support this destructive mining, so it will threaten the health and welfare of people in South Carolina as well as Kentucky and West Virginia.

There are alternatives to another coal plant. Santee Cooper should focus spending on energy-efficiency programs that will reduce energy demand, while it invests in and brings on line energy alternatives such as biomass, offshore wind, solar and small natural gas plants.
We do not need this rate hike to support old technology that not only jeopardizes our health and welfare here in South Carolina but reaches farther north to the mountains of Appalachia and the communities and people living there. Say no to another coal plant.


To see this letter, click here

Energy Efficiency Workshop

Energy efficiency Workshop
Wednesday July 15
2 – 5 pm
Coastal Science Building*
Room 201
Coastal Carolina Univ.
  • The SC Says No coalition invites you to an energy efficiency workshop
  • Learn the facts of energy efficiency
  • Educate others and maybe even yourself on why efficiency is a cheap and easy way to reduce energy demand immediately so we don’t need a new coal plant
  • Hone your arguments on why we need energy efficiency first….not another coal plant
  • Does Santee Cooper promote energy efficiency...get the answer
  • Get ready for the July 27 Santee Cooper Board meeting. *
  • The Coastal Science Building is in the Atlantic Center on the north side of 501 across from the entrance to Coastal Carolina University’s main campus.

Who will regulate carbon?

The State
Couick, Timberlake: Who will regulate carbon?
Michael Couick and Ann Timberlake
July 8, 2009

Whatever you may think about the reality of global warming, the political climate in Washington has changed, bringing with it both challenges and opportunities for South Carolina. How we respond to any potential climate legislation coming out of Washington will play a determining role in our state’s future. And while media pundits and activists at both ends of the spectrum have attempted to polarize the debate, those of us in two important sectors — energy and conservation — know that what is required is a nuanced, strategic response.

Last month the U.S. House passed, along mostly party lines, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The debate on the House floor revealed deep divisions over climate change and whether this legislation will help or harm our country at a time of deep economic recession. Lost in the debate, however, was another important issue: Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant subject to regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In other words, unless Congress acts, the EPA will begin implementing its own program to limit carbon emissions.

This point was not lost on Congressmen Jim Clyburn and John Spratt, who noted recently that the EPA lacks the ability and resources to regulate carbon emissions in a way that takes current economic conditions into account. Without prompt action from Congress, the EPA mandates might put our state and nation at even greater risk for economic disruption.

Congressmen Clyburn and Spratt also recognized that early drafts of the legislation put South Carolina at a competitive disadvantage by rewarding a disproportionate share of emission allowances to utilities and electric cooperatives in other states. Thanks to the efforts of both men, the final bill distributes these allowances more equitably and gives South Carolina greater flexibility as we seek to meet renewable energy benchmarks in the federal bill.

Meeting these benchmarks will be a challenge, but over time South Carolina has the potential to make significant progress in promoting a clean energy future. Offshore wind and solar energy have long-term potential as options for residential and business customers. Biomass — energy from wood chips and other waste materials — is already in use and, in many cases, is a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuel generation.

We can also make great strides in efficiency. South Carolina’s electric cooperatives have set an ambitious goal of weatherizing 25 percent of their members’ housing over the next decade. This initiative is not only good for the environment, it is good for consumer pocketbooks. After all, the cheapest and cleanest kilowatt-hour of electricity is the one we don’t have to generate.

Without question our state still faces significant challenges, particularly as ratepayers confront rising utility bills due to increases in the costs of the construction of new generation and the rising costs of the fossil fuels used to generate electricity. Businesses and consumers alike will have to become more conscious about the way we produce and use energy. Congressmen Clyburn and Spratt are committed to minimizing the impacts on consumers, and the public sector can play a supporting role. For example, by updating building codes and promoting energy efficiency, the General Assembly and local governments have set an example for the private sector while saving taxpayer dollars.

So despite the challenges, we have reasons to be optimistic, and both South Carolina’s electric cooperatives and Conservation Voters of South Carolina thank Congressmen Jim Clyburn and John Spratt for their leadership in improving the American Clean Energy and Security Act so that more dollars stay home in South Carolina where they can be used to promote clean energy, efficiency and home-grown renewables. We look forward to working with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint to build upon this legislation and to promote an energy-independent and secure South Carolina.

Mr. Couick is CEO of the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina; Ms. Timberlake is executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina.

To read this article, click here