The local air agency has extended the public comment period for the proposed Duke Energy Progress, Inc. Skyland plant in Arden. Written comments will be accepted until May 7, 2015 and can be submitted to: Betsy Brown, Air Quality Supervisor, WNC Regional Air Quality Agency, 49 Mt Carmel Rd, Asheville, N.C. 28806, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to agency Permitting Program Manager Ashley Featherstone, “All comments received on or prior to that date will be considered by the WNCRAQA in making its final decision to issue the Title V permit.”
A public hearing for Duke Energy’s permit renewal on April 29 drew a large crowd in the auditorium at Clyde Erwin High School, including members of environmental advocacy groups, clergy members, concerned citizens and Asheville City Council members. An overwhelming majority of public comments urged the agency to amend the permit requirements to lower the allowed SO2 emission levels to the EPA mandated 1-hour standard at a level of 75 parts per billion. The hearing took place the day after Asheville City Council voted unanimously to ask the local agency to tighten emissions requirements for the Arden plant.
According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, “About 250 people turned out for the public comment session, which comes as the coal-fired plant in Asheville is seeking renewal of its air quality permit, expected to be voted on at the next Air Quality Agency board meeting on May 11. Officials have said that decision could be delayed if comments are not compiled before that date.”
The Lake Julian coal plant, located along the French Broad, has been a focus for several years for the WNC Beyond Coal campaign, which aims to raise public awareness and advocate reductions in energy-associated pollution. The campaign has focused on Lake Julian’s coal ash pond, groundwater water contamination and SO2 emissions from the plant.
Joan Walker, campaign coordinator for Beyond Coal, said a recent study commissioned by the Sierra Club using independent researchers showed the plant has caused excessive sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution concentrations in the air near people’s homes, and in some outdoor areas such as the Bent Creek Area of Pisgah National Forest. According to the study’s models, she said, SO2 levels were as much as 3.5 times higher than what EPA has determined to be safe, exceeding minimum public health standards about one out of every three-to-four days since 2010.
The air agency keeps on file the draft permit, permit application, compliance plan, monitoring and compliance reports, all other relevant supporting materials, and all other materials relevant to the permit decision. The files are available for public review at: Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency, 49 Mount Carmel Road, Asheville, NC 28806. Materials are available for review during the hours of 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. The office phone number is 828-250-6777.
More information is available at wncairquality.org.