Press Release | February 5, 2009

SC Energy Report to Congressional Delegation Fizzles on Solutions

In a meeting with South Carolina's Congressional delegation today, a state committee failed to put forward solutions to increase South Carolina's access to innovative, clean renewable energy and reduce the costs of climate change. The Energy Policy Report by state Sen. McConnell and the SC State Regulation of Public Utilities Review Committee outlined multiple problems such as how costly the state's heavy reliance on fossil fuels like coal will be, how the state consumes more energy than almost all other 50 states, and how vulnerable the state is to the climate change impacts related to burning fossil fuels. One thing the report clearly did do, conservationists said, was make a strong case against Santee Cooper's proposed 1320 megawatt coal plant on the Pee Dee River. “This report verifies that the Pee Dee coal plant would be economically toxic for South Carolina and needs to be dropped now for cleaner energy options that would produce thousands more jobs,” said Blan Holman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center in South Carolina. As the report recognizes, controls on greenhouse gasses are coming, making it imperative to reduce greenhouse gas production from energy generation. The report states that South Carolina faces serious financial risks because it gets 60 percent of its power from coal, which produces more global warming gasses than any other fuel. DHEC permitting officials have stated that the Pee Dee Coal plant would add over 10 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. By comparison, South Carolina energy production currently produces 60 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to the report. “The Pee Dee plant would throw gas — lots of it — on an expensive fire we're trying to put out,” said Holman. “South Carolinians already pay some of the highest electricity bills in the country. A coal plant with a huge balloon payment for carbon would make things substantially worse.” More generally, the report failed to specifically address how South Carolina will decrease its carbon footprint, conservationists said — a sentiment seemingly echoed today by members of the S.C. Congressional Delegation in Washington. For example, the report seeks special treatment for past reliance on coal, but does not aggressively put forth a plan to exploit efficiency and renewable resources in South Carolina that would decrease dependence on coal and carbon reductions. “Our coast could be the Saudia Arabia of wind power, but the report doesn't even mention it,” said Ben Moore, energy and climate program director at the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League. “And because we're among the most wasteful states in the country when it comes to energy use we have tremendous upside in efficiency upgrades but the report also omits studies done showing that tremendous potential.” A 2007 report done for the S.C. Electrical Cooperatives showed that efficiency upgrades with only 50 percent market penetration would make a coal plant unnecessary and ease the way for cleaner fuels like natural gas. Studies have also shown that energy efficiency programs — with workers retrofitting homes, installing insulation and consulting with businesses – would produce far more jobs than automated coal plants burning expensive foreign fuel. ### Founded in 1986, SELC is the only non-profit regional organization dedicated to protecting the native forests, wetlands, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and rural landscapes in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. SELC works in partnership with more than 100 diverse groups on legal advocacy, policy reform and public education to achieve lasting environmental protections. Its South Carolina office, located in Charleston, opened in 2007.

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