Front Porch Blog

STATEMENT ON AIR PERMIT FOR DUKE’S EXPANSION AT CLIFFSIDE

Yesterday, the North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) granted Duke Energy Carolinas an air quality permit to build a new 800-megawatt unit at its Cliffside power plant near Shelby. Construction, operation and maintenance of the new Cliffside Unit 6 locks North Carolina into a 50-year commitment to outdated electricity generation that will contribute to global warming, increase the devastating social and environmental impacts of mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining, and exacerbate air pollution from ozone, particulate and mercury.

Following is a statement from Appalachian Voices’ In-house Counsel, Scott Gollwitzer, on the permit.

*Scott Gollwitzer: “This permit represents a giant step backward in confronting the devastating social and environmental impacts associated with producing electricity by incinerating coal. It’s common knowledge that the lifecycle of coal-based electricity has significant impacts on people, communities and the environment. From mining, to burning, to disposal, the coal-based electricity industry leaves behind a legacy of untold human misery and environmental destruction—a legacy that DAQ simply ignored when issuing this permit.

It’s maddening when you think about it. Burning more coal at Cliffside will dramatically expand the number of Appalachian peaks erased from the skyline by mountaintop removal strip-mining. Burning more coal at Cliffside will increase global warming. Burning more coal at Cliffside will increase ozone, particulate and mercury pollution. Burning more coal at Cliffside will create millions more tons of toxic, radioactive combustion waste. Burning more coal at Cliffside will evaporate 21 million gallons of North Carolina water per day—straining our already drought-limited water resources. Burning more coal instead of using wind, solar and efficiency—technologies proven to meet future demand without all of these impacts—is irresponsible.

Equally irresponsible are the “numbers” games that Duke and DAQ are playing to justify erecting this monument to a bygone era. By allowing Duke to escape review of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions, DAQ has not analyzed the effects of these pollutants on the Great Smoky Mountains and other sensitive areas in Western North Carolina. Likewise, DAQ is violating the Clean Air Act, by not requiring maximum achievable control technology for mercury. Further, while DAQ is requiring Duke to offset carbon dioxide emissions, DAQ is not requiring Duke to actually reduce its carbon footprint.

With more than sixty percent of North Carolina’s electricity already coming from coal, Tar Heel residents have an ethical obligation to minimize the impacts of our power production on the people, communities and environments in which coal is mined, burned and disposed of as air pollution and post-combustion waste. Our first step in fulfilling this moral imperative is to use all legal means to prevent Duke’s irresponsible expansion plans. As such, Appalachian Voices is taking a hard look at this permit and evaluating our legal options.”

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