As the movement builds to end coal power across the country, so does the fight against Duke Energy’s expansion of the Cliffside coal-fired power plant in Rutherford County. More than a dozen grass-roots environmental groups are [pressuring] Duke Energy’s CEO Jim Rogers to stop the [new] 800-MW coal-fired [unit] at Cliffside. And both Richard Moore and Beverly Perdue, Democratic candidates for governor, have said the plant can wait.
Along with the expansion, Duke Energy plans to close three smaller plants, but … the net effect will continue current levels of carbon emission—about 6 million tons per year. It will also evaporate 21 million gallons of water daily from the already drought-ridden Southeast region. The $2.4 billion price tag for the unnecessary new generator falls on ratepayer’s pockets, their health and the consequences of our climate crisis.
A national victory for people’s health and the environment, particularly in the Southeast, came Feb. 8, when the U.S. District Court of Appeals (D.C.) issued its decision that the EPA improperly removed coal-fired power plants from the hazardous air-pollution source list and vacated the EPA’s Delisting Rule. The decision also reinstated the EPA’s December 2000 “appropriate and necessary” finding-and-listing decision and invalidated the Bush Administration’s Clean Air Mercury Rule. This means … the EPA [must] develop—within two years—hazardous air-pollution standards named Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards. Vacating the Delisting Rule requires the roughly 120 new coal-fired power plants currently proposed in the United States—including Cliffside—to comply with case-by-case MACT requirements.
As a result of the court’s ruling, several groups are appealing the permit issued by the N.C. Division of Air Quality earlier this year. Duke Energy’s initial proposal does not comply with the mercury standards settled on through the MACT standards and is almost double that of the levels Cliffside currently emits.
For over a year, the N.C. Student Climate Coalition has been fighting Cliffside by writing to the N.C. Utilities Commission, participating in public hearings for air-quality permits, establishing a call-in day to Jim Rogers and Gov. Mike Easley, and holding a direct action outside the Duke Energy Headquarters in Charlotte (which received national attention).
For Fossil Fools Day—the national day of action to break free from fossil fuels—there will be a student-led rally at Freedom Park in Charlotte on Saturday, April 5, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Join students, politicians, grass-roots organizations, people of faith and climate-change experts in a demonstration to stop Duke Energy’s expansion of the Cliffside coal-fired power plant. Keep the pressure on and ensure that we transition into a clean-energy future.
— Nina Otter, Gideon Burdick and Kat Turner
On behalf of the Environmental Action Coalition
Warren Wilson College