Press Release | June 2, 2008

Statement on The NC Division of Air Quality’s letter requiring Duke to meet Clean Air Act standard

The North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) today notified Duke Energy Carolinas that the new unit recently permitted at Duke’s Cliffside power plant near Shelby must incorporate the most stringent  emissions limitations achievable  for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants as required by the Clean Air Act. 

Citing the Clean Air Act as well as a recent federal court ruling striking down EPA’s unlawful attempt to remove coal fired power plants from the list of sources of hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, DAQ stated “the public interest is best served by assuring that Unit 6…has the maximum degree of reduction in emissions achievable” and urges Duke to agree to the initiation of a public process that will determine the maximum degree of reduction in such emissions.

Just nine days after Duke received its permit for Cliffside, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck-down as unlawful EPA’s attempt to “delist” power plants from the list of sources covered by hazardous air pollution control requirements. This ruling makes it clear that power plants were never lawfully removed from the list of sources covered by the Clean Air Act’ stringent requirements for hazardous air pollutants.

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 lawsuit.

The following is a statement from SELC attorney Gudrun Thompson on the DAQ letter sent today.  

Gudrun Thompson: “We are pleased that the Division of Air Quality is requiring Duke Energy to meet maximum achievable limits on hazardous air pollutants including mercury at its new Cliffside unit, as required by the Clean Air Act. We look forward to participating fully in the public process that DAQ has initiated.

“In the meantime, while some parties may debate the point, the law is clear – Duke’s construction of the new Cliffside unit is subject to the stringent Clean Air Act standards to protect people from hazardous air pollution.  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. Yet Duke stubbornly clings to the U.S. EPA’s illegal attempt to exempt coal-fired power plants from the Act’s requirements for controlling hazardous air pollution.

“The bottom line is this:  Duke is violating the Clean Air Act every day it continues to build the new Cliffside unit.  By proceeding with construction in violation of this prohibition, Duke is needlessly exposing its shareholders and ratepayers to unnecessary costs and potential threats to their health and the environment.”

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