NC DAQ approves permit for Duke’s Cliffside coal plant (LAME)

February 2, 2008 at 5:47 am Leave a comment

Earlier this week, the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (NC DAQ) issued the final pollution permit required for Duke Energy to begin construction and operation of a new 800-megawatt coal-fired power plant at Cliffside. Major bummer.

As you can expect, advocacy groups and citizens in North Carolina are extremely disappointed with the Division of Air Quality’s decision to grant Duke Energy a permit to build this global warming machine in our backyard. We have been working to stop this outcome for almost two years now.

NC WARN advertisementCliffside is irresponsible beyond belief—at a time of an impending climate crisis, fish advisories due to mercury contamination, and a statewide drought, the NC DAQ has decided to invest over $2 billion of ratepayer money in a coal plant that could be inoperable soon. We’ve been pushing the DAQ particularly hard on the issue of mercury. When the draft permit came out last fall, students around the state rallied to reject it. The following week, the DAQ announced they were re-visiting the permit to specifically look at the mercury levels. The new and final permit only reduces mercury by .001 pounds for bituminous coal and .047 lbs for sub-bituminous coal. Wow! A whopping .001-pound reduction when they burn Appalachian coal. Talk about a token reduction!

It gets worse. The new permit “requires” Duke to take an equivalent number of megawatts offline in North Carolina (other than the existing units at Cliffside) and invest in carbon offsets so the plant is “carbon neutral” by 2018. Sounds nice, right? Wrong. The 800 megawatts comes from several different facilities throughout the state that are not baseline electricity plants. Duke rarely uses them and therefore they are not do not have the carbon equivalent of the 800 megawatts that will run 24/7 at Cliffside. Plus, Duke had announced plans to take those plants offline in 2007 so there is really nothing new here.

According to the NC State Energy Office, there are numerous clean energy options including energy efficiency, solar, wind, biomass and peak power shifting available right now. New public policies combined with economic incentives and enforcement can also help reduce our energy consumption and increase investment in renewable technologies.

Nationwide, plans for dozens of coal plants have been rejected by regulators or dropped by the power companies themselves. Duke, too, could show real leadership during this transition to a clean energy economy instead of continuing to harm our health, waste our water, and threaten future prosperity by burning coal. Despite the misguided issuance of this air permit, environmental, public health and public interest groups will continue to fight against the expansion of Cliffside.

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Entry filed under: coal, northcarolina.

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