September 3, 2015

Nuclear power helps South Carolina move from coal

South Carolina conservationists are urging state leaders to pursue a “no-regrets” energy strategy that they say would lower electricity bills and create thousands more jobs in the Palmetto State.

Coastal Conservation League energy director Hamilton Davis said consumers need to come first. “We need to put South Carolina ratepayers first by lowering electricity bills through efficiency and affordable renewable power,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.

The federal Clean Power Plan announced by the Obama Administration on Monday requires South Carolina and other states to reduce carbon emissions from power generation plants by more than a third within 15 years. South Carolina has already reduced carbon emissions from its electricity sector by over 30% since 2005, and alternative energy groups say the state is poised to get deeper reductions by attaining efficiency levels already achieved elsewhere and boosting the use of renewables.

Davis said that under construction and existing nuclear power plants in the state will help reach the federal standards. “They will be allowed to count toward some of our compliance obligations.” The federal plan gives more credit to the plant under construction at VC Summer in Jenkinsville for meeting the standards.

Beyond energy efficiency, the conservation groups contend renewable power provides the second affordable building block for South Carolina’s energy future.



New EPA plan will reduce power plant emissions in South Carolina

The Grainger Generating Station in Conway, which closed in 2013. (File)

The Grainger Generating Station in Conway, which closed in 2013. (File)

Fighting climate change will protect the nation’s economy, security, and health, President Obama said Monday in unveiling a plan designed to reduce power plant emissions in South Carolina and all states.

The impact of the new Clean Power Plan on South Carolina is not as severe as the EPA first proposed last summer, giving South Carolina a higher baseline than it originally planned. When the proposed plan was first revealed last summer, South Carolina power plants were required to slash their overall carbon dioxide emission rate roughly in half from 2012 to 2030. But the agency raised the future baseline under the new regulations, now requiring the state to trim its overall emissions by slightly more than a third.

The plan tries to get a 30 percent nationwide decrease in carbon emissions compared to 2005, but gives each state different targets based on the existing energy sources that utilities use in that state. South Carolina environmental officials said it appeared their federal counterparts had heard to the public’s concerns.

“From a very preliminary review of early information provided by EPA, it appears the agency listened to South Carolina stakeholders,” Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) environmental affairs director Elizabeth Dieck said in a statement. “DHEC will be reviewing the final rule and will continue to work with our stakeholders on our path forward.”

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New easement to protect more than 12,000 acres in Allendale, Hampton counties

Map showing the affected property (Image: Nature Conservancy)

Map showing the affected property (Image: Nature Conservancy)

A conservation group says it has negotiated the protection of more than 12,000 acres of woodland forest near the Savannah River– the fourth-largest such easement in state history.

The Nature Conservancy says timber group The Westervelt Company has agreed to let it purchase a conservation easement on a large tract of pine forest located in Allendale and Hampton counties. The easement creates a 12-mile protected wildlife corridor and includes more than seven miles of streams, according to a release from the group. The property is located in an isolated area west of the Fairfax, Hampton, and Gifford communities.

“Protecting these large blocks of forest land really does create a big difference in protecting water quality,” the conservancy’s ACE Basin/Southern Lowcountry project director David Bishop told South Carolina Radio Network. “And that is a public benefit that a lot of people don’t really think of initially.” He added approximately 550,000 people get drinking water from the lower Savannah River.

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Santorum argues American manufacturing rebirth is better for environment

Santorum spoke Tuesday at a "clean coal" energy summit in Columbia

Santorum spoke Tuesday at a “clean coal” energy summit in Columbia

During an appearance at an energy policy forum in Columbia Tuesday, former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said he believes an American manufacturing renaissance could have positive effects on the environment in addition to the economy.

“The more that we make here, the less global emissions you’re going to have. Whether it’s CO2, ozone, or anything else,” he told reporters after the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity event. “If you’re concerned about the global environment, then you want to have more things made here in America and less in China, less in India, and in other countries.”

However, he still criticized new proposed Environmental Protection Agency clean water regulations that he said unreasonably expand the agency’s power to regulate smaller bodies of water. “There’s an appropriate amount of regulation that can lower overall emissions, create a healthier standard, and encourage jobs to come back,” Santorum said. “Then there’s excessive regulations which make it too costly to do business here and with zero environmental health benefits.”

Santorum praised South Carolina’s business recruiting, saying the state has become a “manufacturing juggernaut.” But he expressed worries that federal regulations are holding back further growth. He urged the federal government to consider allowing American companies to export crude oil, which has been banned for nearly 40 years. Santorum said it would both grow the U.S. energy industry and could help Eastern European countries that rely on Russia for their oil.

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State regulators say they won’t block rebuilding of controversial seawall

A key South Carolina environmental panel said it would not intervene against efforts by a Georgetown County neighborhood to build the state’s first new seawall in decades. But the case is expected to end up in court.

A Department of Health Environmental Control (DHEC) committee unanimously voted Monday not to review an earlier permit for a new 1,800-foot seawall at DeBordieu Beach. The upscale beachfront neighborhood has been seeking state approval for more than two years to repair its aging wall. A 1988 state law bans new construction, but grandfathered in the older wall.

Seawalls are used to protect beachfront homes against high tides, but environmental groups say they also cause beaches to erode more quickly.

Committee members said the state legislature had boxed them into approving the permit under language included in the 2014 budget that authorized the seawall. “The issue is that a specific budget proviso was clearly written to specifically allow this replacement to occur,” vice chairman Mark Lutz said during Monday’s teleconference. DHEC staff approved the seawall earlier this year, but the Coastal Conservation League had requested the DHEC Board to review the permit.

The group’s North Coast director Nancy Cave attended Monday’s hearing. She expects the group to appeal DHEC’s decision with the state Administrative Law Court, which handles bureaucratic rulings in South Carolina.

Lutz seemed to anticipate a lawsuit as the committee cast its vote. “It seems to be a very legally related case about whether or not a budget proviso can take precedence over the statute.”

DeBordieu property owners privately funded a beach expansion to temporarily stave off the tide, but that sand is also expected to eventually wash away. The homeowners have told legislators they plan to pay for the new seawall themselves without state help.  The budget language requires the seawall be rebuilt with similar timber material as the original and be no more than two feet from the current wall’s “footprint.”