Posts filed under ‘southcarolina’
Cinco de Mayo is all about commemorating the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces during the French intervention in Mexico. It’s a celebration of the underdog! It’s a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride! OR it’s all about going to overcrowded Mexican restaurants, dancing to Mariachi music, and if you’re of age, taking advantage of margarita specials! But instead of doing any of those things, Kathryn Hilton and I (both students at USC Aiken) started setting up our game plan for presenting our case against the South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G) in front of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The PSC is considering granting SCE&G’s request to raise their customers’ rates to pay for $700 million in government mandated “environmental” upgrades to its Wateree and Williams coal-fired power plants and a backup dam the utility owns near Columbia, as well as $300 million dollars to pay to cut down trees, pay shareholders, upgrade equipment, and for other expenses. Initially, the utility requested a rate increase of nearly 10%, but they’ve recently signed an agreement to reduce the rate increase request to about 7%.
The revised plan is under as much scrutiny as the initial one. This request is in addition to the rate increase that the PSC has already approved for the utility. Customers already have to pay a 2% increase in rates each year for the next decade to pay the $10 billion cost of building two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer plant north of Columbia. This means that ratepayers will pay for the nuclear reactor project in advance, even if the project is cancelled or never finished.
The hearing was held at Aiken Technical College in Graniteville, SC, and I’m surprised the amphitheater wasn’t completely packed with angry ratepayers. There were dozens of people there, and several people signed up to speak before the PSC.
Kathryn and I were the only speakers who noted SCE&G’s dirty energy practices; however, all of the speakers noted SCE&G’s dirty business practices. Even though SCE&G said that they postponed the rate increase by a year due to the dire economy of 2009, we’re not even halfway through 2010, and the economy has not fully recovered. A representative from AARP spoke on behalf of all those people on social security and fixed incomes fearing that they have to choose between food, electricity, or medicine. A single mother on disability, a young woman with two sick parents, and a teacher who doesn’t have health insurance spoke about how they simply could not afford to pay the increase, and they’re barely able to pay for the current rates. The PSC has never turned down SCE&G’s rate increase requests. One man asked the PSC just for once to have a conscience, and he reminded them that they are the Public Service Commission and that they should serve the public, and the public does not want this increase. A round of cheers and applause followed his speech.
When Kathryn spoke, she said, “this increase is reinforcing the use of archaic fossil fuels and allows SCE&G to sidestep their responsibility to customers and residents alike. Ratepayers and residents cannot afford the monetary and environmental costs SCE&G demands. The PSC and SCE&G need to create a plan to for a sustainable infrastructure and conservation efforts on an industrial scale.”
We all should have the right to live in clean, healthy, sustainable communities powered by clean, safe, renewable energy that will also make our country more energy independent and secure. Instead, SCE&G is irresponsibly investing OUR money in dirty coal and expensive nuclear energy resources, and nothing positive can come from that. SCE&G is not only pillaging the environment with its coal-fired plants, but SCE&G has a coal ash pond on the Congaree River, which is just upstream from our beloved Congaree National Park. SCE&G is not taking care of its customers, and if we had any other choice, most people would take their business elsewhere. However, we’re stuck with SCE&G, and we need to make sure that the company is held accountable for its actions, and we must make our voices heard. We may be the underdog, but there is massive power in numbers!
This was the third of four public rate hearings, with the previous two in the Charleston area. The fourth and final hearing will be in Columbia, SC on May 24th. The Public Service Commission will make their final decision concerning the rate increase by mid-July. As citizens, it is our job to make sure that decision makers like the Public Service Commission are scrutinized for supporting questionable practices. Our safety and our futures call for it!
As I was writing this blog, my electricity flickered for a moment, and I freaked out, afraid that my computer may not recover it. Now, I’m paranoid that SCE&G is watching me! Because Kathryn and I spoke at the hearing in Aiken, we are not permitted to speak at another hearing concerning this rate increase. South Carolina youth are coming together from across the state for a summit May 21-23rd in Columbia, SC to build leadership skills and learn about state, regional, and national environmental issues. During the summit, Kathryn and I will lead a workshop on how to speak at a public hearing, and we’ll use our experience in this case to help others put together statements if they are staying for the May 24th hearing. If you’d like more information on this summit or if you’d like to come support us or make a testimony at the May 24th hearing, please contact SEN’s South Carolina Organizer, Jenna, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be sure to get you all the information you’ll need!
Field Hearing: May 24, 6 p.m. at the S.C. Public Service Commission, 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia
Formal hearing: May 24-27,10:30 a.m., 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia
Final decision: July 15
Written by Lam Le, a student at USC Aiken
Submitted by: Kathryn Hilton
There is a coal war in South Carolina. A fight where a main energy provider, Santee-Cooper, our state regulatory agency, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), and many legislators are trying to take our rights away! We, the citizens of South Carolina will NOT stand for this injustice. In our efforts to bring a clean energy future to South Carolina we face many hurdles, fighting in South Carolina is a difficult battle. Things that are our God given rights as human beings are taken from us. February 12, 2009 was no exception.
On this day many citizens from across South Carolina assembled in front of DHEC headquarters to rally for clean energy and make our regulatory board take notice of those of us opposed.
After the rally there was an appeal hearing for the Air Quality Permit DHEC granted to Santee-Cooper. Many organizations and individuals filed appeals. Our request was heard and we were given a chance to present our case.
I was there on this day. I listened to both sides. I heard the negative impacts on the environment and our health this new coal-fired power plant would bring. I heard DHEC defending their decision and Santee-Cooper downplaying the negative effects. I had hope the department in charge of protecting our health and environment would admit their mistake in granting an Air Quality permit to Santee-Cooper, not defend their error. I was wrong. Their decision was made before any of us walked into the board room that morning. Santee-Cooper still has their Air Quality permit, concerned groups will appeal this decision in court.
This is not right! My health and my future are important to me! This is my call to action! We may have lost a battle, but we will not lose the war.
I ask you all to join me in protest of this coal-fired power plant in South Carolina and for coal power everywhere.
Take a stand! Join in solidarity and be part of this change in power. No longer will corporations be allowed to have unlimited say in what comes and goes in our lives. This is our home and our life, we must fight to save it, and we must do this now!
This week, the South Carolina Public Service Commission ignored all reason and public sentiment in granting South Carolina Electric & Gas a blank check to start charging rate payers for the construction of two new nuclear reactors that are not near fully permitted. Two reactors that may never be fully built, that may never come online, and still we will pay the 37% rate increase (which could inflate to as high as a 75% as costs inevitably increase) with no hope of redress. It’s a pathetically premature move on behalf of the PSC and one that reveals their unwavering loyalty to the utilities and big industry. After an extensive, and at times painfully lengthy hearing process, in which citizen after citizen testified, demanding that SCE&G be required to actually address the potential of energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy in their application before the PSC, that the PSC in no way allow the utility the right to charge its ratepayers for such a boondoggle of a project, the commissioners put on their most patronizing smiles to thank the public for its participation and input. They then, promptly and unanimously voted against the public and in favor of SCE&G.
Prepared citizens dressed in costume as “nuclear bailout victims” and “fleeced ratepayers” in hopes that they’d look foolish when the PSC made the right decision. Unfortunately, our theater wasn’t the only one at play in the PSC meeting room and, ultimately, we weren’t the ones looking foolish. Puppets of industry, seven supposed public servants sold SCE&G ratepayers down the river. To check out footage of the hearing/protest, visit: WISTV Columbia and to read more about the decision, visit: The State. And to fight back, visit the SCE&G Ratepayers Strike group.
The Department of Energy has been hosting Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement scoping meetings all across the country to solicit public input on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program being pursued by the federal government and last night they were in Graniteville, SC.
GNEP is a program designed to encourage the expansion of nuclear energy, decrease the likelihood of nuclear proliferation and address the massive problem of nuclear waste by “closing” the nuclear fuel cycle and reprocessing nuclear waste. Unfortunately, it only really succeeds in expanding nuclear energy. Meanwhile, nuclear reprocessing:
- creates more dangerous nuclear waste streams (meaning it doesn’t “close” the nuclear fuel cycle at ALL)
- creates orphaned, weapons-grade plutonium in quantities vulnerable to theft and proliferation (we can thank nuclear reprocessing for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program)
- will cost taxpayers a massive 700 billion dollars
- emits 150,000 times more radiation than traditional nuclear reactors
- has been linked to heightened levels of childhood leukemia around existing facilities
- would essentially condemn any site chosen for a reprocessing facility to being a national nuclear wasteland, since spent fuel can be shipped to location now, before the technology is created that can reprocess that waste
For all these reasons, concerned citizens and young people from South Carolina and Georgia stood up and spoke out against the broader program and the siting of a nuclear reprocessing facility at the Savannah River Site on the border between the two states. Opponents stuck to the facts and argued that GNEP was a bad decision, challenging the DOE to pursue an energy legacy that ends the nuclear fuel cycle instead of “closing” it. We cannot afford to let our country tout this dirty, false solution to climate change any more. All across the country citizens have had enough and let the DOE know about it!
For more information, check out: www.bubbasnofool.org
and to submit comment to the DOE, visit: GNEP PEIS and click on the bubble next to “add comments”
This Monday marked the beginning of what is planned to be a week long hearing before the South Carolina Public Service Commission in which South Carolina Electric & Gas is requesting a 37% rate increase (to be implemented over ten years), to pay for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, SC. The 37% figure is somewhat dubious, as it is based on shockingly low cost estimates for the reactor project (half of what other utilities and the Department of Energy are forecasting as the cost for the very same reactor design).
Of course, SCE&G’s application for the permits to build the two new reactors are woefully inadequate in researching the potential for energy efficiency programs or renewable energy. Instead of investing our money in a clean, safe, healthy energy future, SCE&G is trying to make ratepayers subsidize their dirty energy facilities.
During the two public comment periods, in which anyone could sign up to testify before the Public Service Commission, the opposition far outnumbered the support for this rate increase. Young people and concerned citizens came out in droves to speak out in defense of rate payers, our planet and our people. The final public comment period on Wednesday had to be extended by more than two hours to accomodate all that wanted to speak. In addition to all the public comment made, dozens of written comments were submitted by concerned citizens all across the state.
Now we will have to wait for the PSC to deliberate before we know if SCE&G will be granted their requested rate increase. Once this decision is made, it is final and will allow SCE&G a blank check and the option of increasing the rates even further to pay for their construction. Even if the two new reactors are never built or never come online, the ratepayers have no way of recovering their money, thanks to legislation passed in South Carolina last year.
Regardless of the decision, though, South Carolina will not go down without a fight; we will continue to organize in opposition of this nuclear project even if we can’t protect our pocketbooks from a “Public Service” Commission with a questionable track record.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control doesn’t know how to handle all the young people coming out and speaking out against Santee Cooper’s proposed “Pee Dee Energy Campus,” a pretty euphamism to mask Santee Cooper’s dirty ambitions for a 600 MW pulverized coal plant on the banks of the Great Pee Dee River. Nor did the crowd of Santee Cooper subsidized supporters know how to handle us. Speaker after speaker tried to undermine the intentions of the twenty young people present by meanly accusing us of being there for school credit or by leveraging age as an indicator of intelligence.
However, the youth message was wildly different. Ten young people got up to speak last night and made public comments urging DHEC to deny Santee Cooper a 401 Water Quality permit that they need to build an intake and discharge structure on the Great Pee Dee River. Our message was one of unity, of shared hopes and common needs. In a community that desperately needs jobs, in a state with growing energy demands, young people challenged Santee Cooper, looking CEO Lonnie Carter right in the eye, to be a national leader and a real force of innovation for the state. Communities should not have to be sacrificed at the alter of energy demands, especially when there are healthy, clean alternatives.
Santee Cooper’s coal plant would: emit 93 lbs of mercury into an environment already overburdened by high mercury levels, destroy 92 acres of wetlands, create toxic ash dumps on the banks of a large fresh water source, employ 100 people and perpetuate the devastation of Appalachian communities. A 3% increase in statewide energy efficiency efforts would eliminate the “need” for the coal plant and serious investment in clean energy would create tens of thousands of jobs across the state. Santee Cooper has a choice to make and South Carolina’s youth will not settle!!
Today, the South Carolina nuclear complex was treated to an obscenely dignified luncheon with former EPA head and recent co-founder of the Clean and Safe Energy coalition, Christine Todd Whitman. Whitman has been traveling the southeast preaching her reformed gospel of nuclear power and receiving audiences as captive and convinced as those of the old open tent revivals. Instead of haunting her audiences with fire and brimstone, though, Whitman threatens rolling brownouts or, even worse, blackouts. Obviously if we want to address climate change and continue to provide energy for a world addicted to their ipods and cell phones (a consumption pattern that Whitman wouldn’t dare to challenge), we need nuclear power.
Sitting at the top of the world, eating the catered lunch and bantering with the woman next to me about how beautiful the view was, I became anxious. Whitman’s messaging was all right: we need to address climate change, we need to protect our environment and our people, we need to challenge American ingenuity and act now. But her solution is false, empty and devastating. The climate around nuclear power is shifting to one of greater acceptance but the realities remain same. Nuclear reactors are hugely expensive projects which ratepayers and taxpayers will fund, the reactors require massive amounts of water to cool, thus straining our draught impacted waterways, and nuclear power is devastating to the communities that mine the uranium, that produce the power and that live with the waste. It’s a lifecycle of destruction and the only winners are those pocketing the profits.
So as Ms. Whitman dodged answering my question, I was reminded that it must be the respoinsibility of the youth climate movement to answer the pro-nuke propoganda being fed our country and support the real, healthy, just solutions for energy that demand the talent and ingenuity of America without compromising our future. As others hesitate, we must lead!