Carolinas Clean Air Coalition
NC WARN: Waste Awareness & Reduction Network
June 30, 2009
Broad Support for Revoking Coal Plant Certificate
Two dozen groups back NC WARN, telling the Utilities Commission long-term projections prove Duke still seeks to expand its customer base, and the Cliffside power plant is an unnecessary risk to ratepayers, health and climate
Joint Statement by June Blotnick, Executive Director of Carolinas Clean Air Coalition, and NC WARN Executive Director Jim Warren:
CHARLOTTE, NC — Two dozen social justice, health, consumer and environmental groups have joined the call for the NC Utilities Commission to cancel permission for Duke Energy to build a huge coal-fired power plant near Charlotte, and/or to hold evidentiary and public hearings to weigh the growing evidence against continuing construction of the $2.4 billion Cliffside project.
Twenty-one nonprofits sent a letter yesterday to Commission Chair Ed Finley, and three other interveners filed a legal brief, all supporting a May 5th motion by NC WARN. Because of multiple factors now firmly proving the plant is not needed, State law requires the Commission to revoke permission to build the 800 megawatt Cliffside unit.
Furthermore, lawsuits, rising costs, state clean energy requirements, and dynamic national trends all threaten the viability of the four-year construction project, already delayed by one year. Any further spending cannot be charged to ratepayers, according to state law.
A recent Commission ruling against Duke’s efforts to sell electricity outside its service area entirely eliminates the need for the Cliffside plant. Nevertheless, Duke continues efforts to solicit large outside customers and is appealing the ruling. As the Southern Environmental Law Center (also representing Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Environmental Defense Fund) told the Commission in its legal brief, ‘‘Duke has refused to acknowledge the likely effect of [the ruling] on its need for new generating capacity.’’
Duke Energy continues to divert attention from the key issue: lack of need. Friday it told the commission — as it did the news media when the NC WARN motion was filed — that public groups are mistaking short-term declines in electricity usage for long-term needs for new power plants. In fact, the utility has steadily reduced its forecasted growth over the next 15 years. In addition:
- Duke’s residential rate increase requested this month — totaling 18% — proves building new plants would raise electricity bills far more than energy efficiency and renewable power.
- Duke’s recent commitment in a proposed settlement of its controversial Save-a-Watt program decreases the need for Cliffside even further — if Duke plans to keep its word.
- The company’s long-range projections use exaggerated reserve margins; reducing them to reasonable levels further diminishes the need for new plants.
- Southeastern utilities, including Duke, plan to greatly overbuild power plants so they can increase sales to other regions, according to industry data.
- A new study of Duke’s long-term data by a Duke University economist shows the need for Cliffside — plus new nuclear plants — can be eliminated by modest increases in energy efficiency and cogeneration, along with renewable power at levels already required in North Carolina. Previous studies by Duke Energy, the state and others show similar conclusions.
Along with the lack of need, Cliffside Unit 6 pollution would particularly harm children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses. State regulators have sided with Duke in reclassifying Cliffside as a ‘‘minor source’’ of hazardous air pollution, although the US Environmental Protection Agency has joined critics in questioning the calculations used in the designation. And the new unit would emit 6 million tons of carbon annually despite the accelerating climate crisis.
In response to climate change, rising energy prices, and communities being blown apart by mountaintop mining, national trends are moving rapidly away from coal and toward clean, efficient energy. Plans for 97 coal-fired plants have been shelved since 2006 due to cost increases and the lack of carbon controls. Even the top U.S. energy regulator now dismisses the need for new coal and nuclear plants.
Duke CEO Jim Rogers told his stockholders last month that he’ll answer NC WARN’s call for revocation in hearings before the utilities commission. Now he’s seeking to block hearings where Duke would have to justify the need for the Cliffside gamble. The commission must not allow Duke to further squelch open debate.
The following groups sent the letter to Chairman Finley (excluding NC WARN and the groups intervening in the case):
Beloved Community Center — Greensboro
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League
Carolinas Clean Air Coalition
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation
Clean Water for NC
Conservation Council of NC
Environment North Carolina
Greenpeace North Carolina
Mountain Voices Alliance
NC Conservation Network
NC Fair Share
NC Interfaith Power & Light
NC Justice Center
Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation
Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS)
People Advocating for Real Conservancy
Southern Energy Network
Western NC Alliance
Western NC Physicians for Social Responsibility
* Documents in the case can be found at: http://ncuc.commerce.state.nc.us…