Statement on Duke Energy’s announcement that it plans to perform a “maximum achievable” controls assessment for mercury and hazardous air pollutants at Cliffside Unit 6
At the urging of the North Carolina Division of Air Quality, Duke Energy today announced that it will perform an assessment of the Maximum Achievable Control Technology for mercury and other hazardous pollutants. The assessment, if performed correctly, will result in the most stringent emissions limitations achievable for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants at the new unit at Duke’s Cliffside power plant near Shelby. However, Duke also announced that construction of the plant will continue as the MACT analysis is performed, violating federal law.
Last month, the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club, notified Duke that the company is violating the law by constructing a new unit at its Cliffside power plant without complying with Clean Air Act standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and that continuing to do so could result in a federal lawsuit.
The following is a statement from SELC attorney John Suttles:
John Suttles: “One the one hand, we are pleased that, at the prompting of the Division of Air Quality, Duke states that it will perform a maximum achievable technology assessment of pollution controls for mercury and other hazardous pollutants. Pollutants like mercury, hydrocholoric acid, dioxins, arsenic, and other heavy metals are dangerous to the health of all North Carolinians, which is why the Clean Air Act requires companies like Duke to do all they can to control these emissions. We look forward to participating fully in the public process that DAQ has initiated and commend the agency for prompting Duke to address its toxic emissions.
On the other hand, we are highly skeptical and extremely disappointed in Duke’s continued efforts to skirt the law. First, every day that Duke continues construction on the Cliffside unit, it violates the Clean Air Act and needlessly exposes its shareholders and ratepayers to litigation. The Clean Air Act clearly prohibits the new Cliffside unit from being constructed, unless and until Duke demonstrates and meets maximum achievable limits on hazardous air pollutants.
Second, Duke’s statement that it will complete the required analysis by the end of June demonstrates that it still is not committed to complying with the law. A properly performed MACT analysis should take into account the highest achievable level of hazardous pollution control and could change the way the plant is built and operated. In short, a proper analysis takes time to perform. For instance, the Secretary of DENR estimated that a proper MACT analysis would take between 3 and 6 months. But Duke has indicated that it will complete its analysis in 2 weeks. We are eager to see how thoroughly Duke performs its MACT analysis. But given its persistent flouting of Clean Air Act requirements, we are skeptical Duke will follow through on reluctant pledge to heed the law this time.