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.

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