Air agency extends public-comment deadline on Duke Energy Skyland permit renewal

Lake Julian power plant. Photo courtesy of David Oppenheimer- www.performanceimpressions.com

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 betsy.brown@buncombecounty.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.

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About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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One thought on “Air agency extends public-comment deadline on Duke Energy Skyland permit renewal

  1. Jim

    The rich, who are gentrifying the area, don’t mind paying higher energy rates, they can afford it. Can you ???

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