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.