The BTPC travelled down I-20 today, passing through the Pine Curtain, to attend a press conference by a broad coalition of opponents of the Santee Cooper's proposed Coal Plant on the Pee Dee River. Today's press conference featured several different groups such as the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, the Small Business Chamber of Commerce, S.C. League of Women Voters, the S.C. Wildlife Federation and Physicians for Social Responsibility.
This issue is bigger than most people realize. It is not just folks in the Pee Dee who are concerned, as the presser was attended by reps of national groups such as the Sierra Club and Physicians for Social Responsibilities. Bruce Nilles, the Director of the Sierra Club's National Coal Campaign explained just why this proposed plant was a concern for people outside of the state. Nilles said the 1320 megawatt proposed plant would be in the top 5% as far as size in the country. He pointed out that the carbon emissions from this plant alone could undo the emission cutbacks several northern states are working towards through their own coalitions.
Nilles went on to cite how it is foolish for South Carolina to move towards this technology, with the political climate the way it is. As he explained, Obama has been clear that the period of skepticism over climate change is over and his administration will do something about it. As he pointed out, Wall Street has already taken notice as Dyn Energy, one of the largest companies involved in coal plants has announced their getting out of the business. Why? Because everyone knows new regulation is going to make coal plants unprofitable, as well as the rising cost thanks to increased demand from overseas (ex: China). As Nellis pointed out, Santee Cooper's number one reason for coal is it's the cheapest way to make power. Uh...not for long. And by the way, what's with spending all this state money on an obsolete 19th Century technology, when we're freezing teacher's salaries and cutting other state funding left and right?
When asked about Santee Cooper's statements that the Pee Dee Plant would be state of the art, Blan Holman for the Southern Environmental Law Center had the best retort, stating it would be akin to being the most wonderful, state-of-the-art buggy that could possibly be drawn by a horse. Nilles pointed out that all the cleaning technology only dealt with mercury. Nothing cleans or lessens the carbon dioxide emissions, which at the Pee Dee plant would be over 10 million tons per year. In other words, there is no such thing as clean coal. But that's no newsflash.
And there are much easier ways to address our energy needs. For instance, did you know SC was the third least efficient state in the country? Or that Time magazine recently reported we had the lowest investment in efficiency in the country? As one speaker stated, there's only two reasons for this: We are either too dumb or too lazy. And both of those can be corrected.
Check out the website and see what your local politicians are wanting to put in our back yard.
However, this event brought up a interesting question for those of us who live in Florence.
Florence Mayor Stephen Wukela, the only local politician to oppose the plant, was in attendance. Wukela has made his opposition to the coal plant well known and vowed today to do anything he could to prevent the building of the plant. When praised by attendees for his appearance, Wukela noted it was more important who was not in attendance than who was.
This is Senator Leatherman's district. He is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Yet he was not in attendance. Even stranger, despite searching, I can't find any instance where Senator Leatherman has taken a position at all. Why not? Obviously, if he was against it, there would be no plant. Senator Leatherman controls the pursestrings and he could kill this thing tomorrow. So the fact that he has not leads one to assume he is for it. But if Senator Leatherman is for the coal plant, why not say so publicly?
Where's the leadership at, Hugh?
Late addition: Check this article from the NY Times on ash ponds