The North Carolina Division of Air Quality today approved an air-quality permit for Duke Energy to build a new 800-Megawatt unit at its Cliffside power plant near Shelby. The agency insisted that Duke retire older and more polluting plants before bringing the new unit online.
The proposal has long been a point of controversy among environmental groups, as representatives from the Southern Environmental Law Center, the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, along with hundreds of concerned citizens, weighed in during the public-comment period for this permit. The Canary Coalition, a Sylva-based nonprofit, recently announced a boycott against Cliffside.
Below, a statement issued by the Southern Environmental Law Center on the decision to approve the coal-fired facility, in which the organization indicates that it is “taking a hard look at this permit” and evaluating legal options.
— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor
The following is a statement from SELC attorney Gudrun Thompson on the permit released today.
Gudrun Thompson: “We appreciate the efforts of the Easley Administration to improve upon the seriously flawed draft permit. However, the State has still granted a final permit that will not require Duke to build Cliffside Unit 6 with the cleanest technology available, as the federal Clean Air Act requires.
DAQ is allowing Duke to escape review of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) based on pollution cleanups at the existing Cliffside units, even though those units have been subject to a long-standing EPA enforcement action and should have been cleaned up years ago. As a result, DAQ still has not required an analysis of the effect that those pollutants, which contribute to smog and acid rain, would have on the Great Smoky Mountains and other sensitive natural areas in Western North Carolina. The permit also fails to require maximum control of toxic mercury, in violation of the federal Clean Air Act.
It’s encouraging that the State is requiring Duke to offset carbon dioxide emissions from Cliffside Unit 6, but it’s important to realize that DAQ is not requiring Duke to actually reduce its carbon footprint and is allowing Duke to build a conventional coal plant that does not allow for capture of carbon dioxide.
The bottom line is that despite some modest improvements in response to criticism from SELC, EPA, the National Park Service and many others, this permit still has serious flaws. We are taking a hard look at this permit and evaluating our legal options going forward.”