ASHEVILLE, NC (December 16, 2008) – Fresh from a court order forcing Duke Energy to comply with the Clean Air Act limiting air pollution from the 800-megawatt addition to its Cliffside coal-fired power plant, the company is again attempting to dodge tighter pollution controls. Earlier this month a federal judge sided with conservation groups challenging Duke’s failure to obtain pollution limits to adequately control toxic air pollution. Duke has responded with a request for less stringent permits based on changes to their pollution calculations that environmental groups and even some of Duke’s own vendors do not believe the company can meet. The company also has claimed pollution gains for closing facilities that are effectively required to be shuttered already by state regulations.
Duke has asked for a less restrictive “minor source” permit for this projectwithout making any changes to the pollution control equipment on the plant. Groups opposing it point out numerous inconsistencies and incorrect assumptions in the Duke permit that put their low pollution numbers in question. An experienced engineer retained by environmental groups to examine Duke’s proposal found even a veryslight change to one of Duke’s assumptions or increase in emissions would force Duke to accept the more stringent major source permit under the Clean Air Act. Among the groups’ concerns are assertions from vendors that equipment likely would not perform at the levels Duke predicts, a lack of binding commitment to prevent the burning of even dirtier coal than Duke projects (as the plant is built to burn even the dirtiest varieties that are avoided in other plants), and a lax monitoring scheme that requires monitoring of the plant’s emissions for only a few hours once per year.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) represented Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in the case. The groups include thousands of North Carolina residents, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains and other nearby natural areas already affected by pollution from Cliffside.
Following are reactions from the groups involved:
“Duke's conjured up another scheme to dodge the law,” said Derb Carter, Carolinas Office Director for SELC. "Calling Cliffside a minor source of hazardous pollutants is like calling Mount Everest a mole hill. Duke's claims gamble the health of people throughout the Carolinas on untested theories that should be proven for more than just a few hours per year.”
"Having already violated the law, Duke is now trying to issue itself a get out of jail free card." said Patrice Simms, a Senior Attorney for NRDC. “Instead of stepping up and agreeing to reduce mercury and other dangerous pollutants from their new coal plant, they are once again trying to game the system to avoid emission limits that they should have adopted before they even started construction."