Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jobs or Health? Is that our only choice?

Hope you have all been following John Monk and Sammy Fretwell's excellent series in The State newspaper over the last week, investigating DHEC's failure to lead on some of the biggest health and environmental issues affecting South Carolina’s future. It's always refreshing to see one of our local media outlets actually do some investigative journalism, instead of say, puff-pieces on outgoing defeated politicians.

Anyway, this past Wednesday, they looked at a major environmental and health issue we are facing in the Pee Dee: Santee Cooper's proposed $2.2 Billion dollar coal fired electrical plant on the Pee Dee river (over near Pamplico and Johnsonville).

This plant is a perfect example of the term boondoggle. The folks behind this monstrosity are preying on the economic fears of the community, holding out the promise of jobs to communities starving for them, in exchange for putting a dying technology in their back yard that can kill them.

Think for minute about the term "clean coal." There is no such thing. Santee Cooper knows the damn thing is obsolete BEFORE they even build it. But yet they continue to push it. Why? Why not nuclear? Why are they so bent on using a finite fossil fuel that pollutes A LOT? Most utilities are moving away from coal because of these problems. In fact, Santee Cooper itself is pimping coal in this hand, while extending their other hand in the Columbia area to push a nuclear plant they want to build along with SCE&G.

The 2,700-acre plant, to be built 25 miles southeast of Florence, would be
Its smokestack would be 650 feet tall — 95 feet taller than the
Washington Monument.
It would consume 4 million tons of coal a year in two
giant coal furnaces that would produce 1,320 megawatts of electricity. That’s
enough to power 300,000 to 500,000 homes and perhaps hundreds of new

But what it would release into the air, even with pollution controls,
is causing a stir statewide.
Each year, the smokestack would release 9
million tons of atmosphere-warming carbon dioxide, at least 93 pounds of
potentially nerve-damaging mercury and thousands of tons of other pollutants.
The smokestack would release pollutants high enough to be caught by upper wind

Those protesting the coal plant include state and national
environmental groups, some area doctors and residents and 10 attorneys general
from other states. They fear winds will carry the pollution their way.

That's right, 10 other states are concerned about the pollution this plant would cause, but folks around here are ready to sell their souls (or more importantly their health) for the plant. Apparently, Pamplico Mayor Gene Gainey still believes that the almighty dollar has not corrupted our economic culture:

“This will help generate more industry,” he said, adding that more than
1,100 area residents last year signed a petition supporting the plant. “I don’t
believe Santee Cooper would do anything to harm the community.”

Gainey added that the plant even could help offset some 2,000 jobs lost in recent years when textile plants closed. it can't. Those jobs are gone and they ain't coming back, not to mention that even Santee Cooper's job estimates are only for a fraction of that number of jobs. And even those estimates are high because they count construction jobs, which will of course disappear once the plant is built. Plus, I skipped Mayor Gainey's ridiculous remark that he doesn't believe Santee Cooper would do anything to harm the community, because it is just that: ridiculous. Especially when one considers Santee Cooper was pumping massive illegal amounts of pollutants into the air at its Winyah plant in Georgetown county for more than a decade. There is no such thing as corporate stewardship of the environment, Mayor Gainey. If Santee Cooper was at all concerned with the community, they would not be trying to throw a obsolete plant in your area to cash in quickly.

Of course, Wukela is the only local politician to voice opposition to this plant. Hell...Florentines should be against it for the traffic mess alone. You guys realize we'd have a mile long train hauling coal through our city every day? Better get used to sitting there at South Park.

More than that, you have to wonder why this piece of junk is being pushed. Funny...I seem to recall one of the projects for that 1-cent sales tax was widening Hwy 378 from Lake City to Johnsonville. At the time, I thought it was awfully nice of those pushing the tax to help make it easier for Wellman to pull their equipment out of Johnsonville. But now one wonders, who is really benefiting? Hmmm...

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