Appalachian Voices, Canary Coalition, Carolinas Clean Air Coalition, NC Interfaith Power & Light, NC WARN, Rutherford Citizens, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
NEWS RELEASE January 15, 2009
New Governor Urged to Rein in Regulators, Cancel Coal Plant
Groups protest at “sham” hearing; say state and Duke Energy used magic numbers to violate pollution law and defy federal judge
Statement from public interest groups and Rutherford County residents:*
FOREST CITY, NC – Community leaders and advocates from across the state express our moral outrage at this hearing over toxic air pollution expected from expansion of the Cliffside power plant.
The NC Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has lost all credibility with the public after repeatedly siding with Duke Energy’s dubious practices throughout the permitting process and since construction began last February – instead of protecting health and safety. The latest offense
involves Duke and state officials defying a federal court order by creating essentially “magic numbers” to pretend toxic pollution will be far lower than calculated for the past two years.
We therefore are calling for Governor Beverly Perdue to personally review the actions of this out-of-control state agency, to investigate the propriety of its connections to Duke Energy, and to cancel the increasingly dangerous Cliffside project. At the very least, we are urging the governor to demand that DAQ return to a valid regulatory role, thus requiring Duke Energy to stop skirting various regulations, a pattern that has led to multiple legal actions being defended with state taxpayer money.
At a press conference prior to the hearing, a local nurse, a local business owner and a member of the faith community all spoke about the abusive DAQ actions and the need for Gov. Perdue to finally cancel this multi-billion dollar mistake.
We are presenting gift-wrapped chunks of coal to the officials from Duke Energy and DAQ to demonstrate our awareness of their collusion to sidestep the law, pour thousands of tons of poison onto our communities and into our food supply, while increasing greenhouse gases at the very worst time.
Many DAQ engineers try to do their jobs, but division head Keith Overcash has long directed his staff to protect polluters’ interests instead of the public. DAQ’s pattern of protecting Duke includes last January’s joint public relations ploy claiming Cliffside is part of a “carbon reduction” scheme. Also during that period, DAQ participated in an 11th hour switch allowing Duke to claim – under mounting pressure and an imminent federal court ruling – that mercury emissions would magically be lower than calculated earlier, even though no equipment changes were proposed.
DAQ/Duke’s latest scheme and ongoing violation could lead Judge Lacy Thornburg to halt construction:
- Duke recently recalculated Cliffside’s expected emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). After admitting for two years that the new unit could emit 217 tons of these poisons, Duke now claims it would emit less than 25 tons – a completely unbelievable 85% reduction.
- Duke made no technical changes – only calculations. The giant polluter now says the new unit qualifies as a “minor source” of pollution, and thus not required to comply with the judge’s order to install the best pollution controls to protect people from these poisons.
- Even the manufacturer of the pollution control equipment disagrees with Duke’s new claim. Keith Overcash’s DAQ, however, proposes to go along with Duke’s “magic numbers.”
- DAQ plans to allow the new Cliffside unit to emit 40 times the mercury as a recently permitted coal-fired plant in Virginia (that plant is 660MW compared to the new Cliffside unit’s 800).
- NC health officials estimate that “at least 13,677 children per year” are born in NC with
potentially damaging blood mercury levels. Cliffside would add to this tragedy.
The Cliffside injustice is compounded by the fact that the plant has roundly been proven unnecessary; most recently, Duke has been fully exposed at the Utilities Commission as intending to sell Cliffside’s additional power to new customers now being recruited outside the corporate service area. Others get the power; Duke gets the profits; we get the poison!
We did not encourage the public to attend this hearing because they count on us for honesty about where their voices count. The state is already siding with Duke’s new claim that Cliffside would be a “minor source” of toxic pollution; it seems clear that, as usual, DAQ has already made its decision and is merely going through the formalities. If DAQ really wanted public participation, it would have held another hearing in Charlotte as requested.
Just as with its pollution permit, Duke typically fictionalizes support for Cliffside by recruiting proponents to hearings who expect to benefit financially from the plant, through jobs or reduced taxes, or from Duke in other ways. Few ever address Duke’s impact on the people whose health is threatened by the plant. Many of the company’s proponents are little more than hired cheerleaders.
Cliffside is only in its first year of construction; Duke recently delayed the expected opening to 2012. We’re asking Governor Perdue to truly put North Carolina on a course toward a green economy – by cancelling Cliffside.
*Contacts: Mike Cherin, Rutherford Citizens: 828-286-4104
Ulla Reeves, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: 828-254-6776
Avram Friedman, Canary Coalition: 828-631-3447
Jill Rios, NC Interfaith Power & Light: 828.252.1794
June Blotnick, Carolinas Clean Air Coalition: 704-342-9161
Scott Golwitzer, Appalachian Voices: 828-505-1963
Jim Warren, NC WARN: 919-416-5077