With appeals and permitting, coal-fired power plant may be years away

A new coal-fired power plant in Florence County could be years away, if it happens at all. An air quality permit is being appealed and Santee Cooper must apply for various other permits for water and landfill quality.  

The Southern Environmental Law Center is appealing the air quality permit OK’d last week by the South Carolina Department of Environmental Control.

The lead attorney in the appeal, Blan Holman, says Santee Cooper should have to go through the same scrutiny as Duke Energy, SCANA or Progress Energy when it comes to getting approval to build a plant.

“A utility that wants to build a $2.5 billion machine and wants to charge South Carolinians to pay for it, doesn’t have to ever go before any utilities commission to say ‘here’s why we need to build this machine, here’s why it’s the least cost option, and here’s why you should authorize us to increase utility bills on the people of South Carolina to pay for this thing. That’s what the Public Service Commission does, ” says Holman

In the initial hearing, Holman represented the Environmental Defense Fund, League of Women Voters of South Carolina, the Sierra Club, The South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

The DHEC Board, in a divided vote, upheld the argument that Santee Cooper satisfied the requirements for air quality.

Holman argues that DHEC should have looked whether the plant is needed and what are the alternatives for it, “but they didn’t do it and that’s one of the reasons that the air permit is unlawful and should not have been issued.  Of course we argued that to the board and they didn’t see fit to agree with us and that’s one of the reasons we intend to seek to have the board’s decision overturned by the administrative law court.” 

Holman says the appeal process for this permit alone could go into the year 2011.