The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Agreement Cuts Pollution on Old, Dirty Coal Plants in Carolinas
Conservation groups announced a settlement Jan. 17 with Duke Energy that will cut pollution by phasing out more than 1600 mega watts of dirty, old coal-fired power while still meeting customers’ energy needs.
The groups reached the settlement in an administrative challenge to the state-issued air pollution permit for construction and operation of a new coal-fired unit at Duke Energy’s Cliffside power plant near Shelby, N.C. The Southern Environmental Law Center negotiated the settlement on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Under the settlement terms, Duke Energy will retire old coal-fired units that lack modern pollution control technology, totaling about 1667 megawatts or more than twice the capacity of the new unit at the Cliffside facility. Duke had previously included these coal-plant retirements in its non-binding, long-range plan submitted each year to the state utilities commission. The settlement agreement makes the planned retirements enforceable, thereby locking in reductions in air and water pollution that harms the health of children and families in the Carolinas.
As a result of advocacy by the conservation groups and other clean energy advocates, the new Cliffside unit will operate under the most stringent acid gas controls in the U.S., with a 99.9 percent reduction in such pollution. Acid gases, such as sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid, from coal-fired power plants can cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation, chest pain, coughing, nausea, impaired lung function, asthma attacks, and chronic bronchitis.
The settlement also tightens a permit provision that Duke Energy must demonstrate best practices to decrease toxic air pollution emitted during malfunction, shut down and start up situations.
Many old power plants operate today without modern pollution controls that are overdue since the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. More than 400 coal- and oil-fired power plants nationwide release in excess of 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere each year that are linked to cancer, heart disease, birth defects, asthma attacks and even premature death.
Statements from the attorney and groups involved follow:
“This settlement phases out some of the oldest, dirtiest, and most inefficient coal plants in the Carolinas,” said John Suttles, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the groups in court. “In addition to protecting people’s health and saving lives, it also will save ratepayers’ money by paving the way for a more efficient and sustainable energy future.”
“This settlement ends another chapter in the history of polluting coal generation that jeopardizes our health, air and water," said Michael Regan, director of energy efficiency for Environmental Defense Fund. "In the future, energy conservation and new technologies will provide North Carolina with reliable energy while protecting our families and economy.”
“The air quality improvements that will result from this settlement will provide present and future generations with substantially cleaner air in the region,” said Don Barger, National Parks Conservation Association's Southeast regional director. “The health of our people and parks, including Great Smoky Mountains National Park in particular, will long bear witness to the benefits realized from transitioning away from coal.”
“North Carolina has long been a clean air leader, and today's settlement is another important step forward for the Tarheel State. This settlement is critical for the health of North Carolina's families. Coal-fired electricity is the primary source of toxic mercury pollution and is a leading trigger of asthma attacks. These retirements will allow North Carolina to move beyond coal, and focus on clean energy solutions like solar and offshore wind," said Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.
“We are pleased to finally have a settlement agreement with Duke Energy to offset the enormous amount of carbon dioxide that the Cliffside coal plant will emit over its lifespan,” stated Stephen Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Duke’s old coal plants need to come offline to reduce the company's contribution to climate change while making room for cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.”
For more information, click here.
Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. See twitter.com/EnvDefenseFund and facebook.com/EnvDefenseFund
Since 1919, the nonpartisan, non-profit National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 340,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for our children and grandchildren.
Sierra Club is the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization with over 17,000 members in North Carolina and more than 1.4 million members and supporters nationwide. Since 2002, Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign has successfully stopped 161 new coal plant proposals from moving forward, and is working to move our nation beyond coal to a clean, safe energy economy.
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 40 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.