Cliffside ruled “minor” polluter

NC Chapter Press Release

NC Division of Air Quality issues controversial permit for 800MW Cliffside Coal Boiler

Today’s permit decision stands out at a time when other states are putting plants on hold.

Raleigh, N.C. — Today, the Perdue administration agreed to declare the massive 800-megawatt Cliffside Coal Boiler Unit 6 a “minor” source of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants. The decision helps Duke Energy avoid stringent federal controls on toxic air emissions for the facility, which is under construction 55 miles west of Charlotte.

“Today’s permitting decision to exempt the new Cliffside Unit from stringent requirements for hazardous air pollution puts the health of North Carolina citizens at risk and puts North Carolina out-of-step with the national trend away from coal” said Elyse Jung of the North Carolina Sierra Club.

In contrast to today’s decision, on February 3, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm put a virtual moratorium on new coal plants in her state through an executive order. Granholm also pledged to reduce Michigan’s reliance of fossil fuels for generating electricity by 45% by 2020. Governor Jim Doyle on February 6 announced that a power plant operated by the University of Wisconsin would begin burning biomass instead of coal. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford on February 11 announced his opposition to a coal plant planned for the Pee Dee River area in Florence County.

Utilities themselves are increasingly abandoning plans for new coal, citing regulatory and economic uncertainties. Since the US Dept of Energy’s 2007 projections of 150 new coal plants in 2007, plans for 95 have been dropped or put on hold, according to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

The pace with which plans for coal-plants are being put on hold has accelerated in light of recent court actions and anticipated action by the Obama EPA. In February, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the Bush era mercury rule. The Obama administration has indicated that it may seek new, stricter limits on mercury from coal plants. And, published reports have indicated that the Obama administration will announce by April 16 that it will begin the process to regulate carbon dioxide, making it further unlikely that there will be new applications for conventional coal plants, which are not designed to capture or control carbon.

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