Dellinger comes out against Cliffside Coal fired plant

from Charlotte Observer 1/1/08:

Dellinger, lieutenant governor hopeful, says it would harm Smokies

RALEIGH --Hampton Dellinger, running for the Democratic nomination for N.C. lieutenant governor, urged regulators Monday to reject Duke Energy's planned expansion of a coal-fired power plant 50 miles west of Charlotte.

Dellinger said the expansion could have a severe impact on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and that any new coal-fired facility should be a last resort. He is a Durham lawyer and former legal counsel to Gov. Mike Easley.

"There is no overriding reason to grant a state permit now, and plenty of good reasons not to," he said in a statement e-mailed to the Observer.

The proposed expansion has led to a major fight between Duke, which says it's the best way to provide electricity to a growing region, and environmentalists pushing for alternatives. The N.C. Division of Air Quality is considering whether to issue a permit allowing the expansion at Duke's Cliffside site in Rutherford County.

Dellinger's statement injects the issue into the Democratic primary, where the environment could be a concern for voters.

He contrasted his position with that of state Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford, who is also running for lieutenant governor. Dalton supported Duke's initial plan to build two coal-fired power plants at the Cliffside site, and Dalton's campaign released a statement standing by that decision.

"The new plant at Cliffside will be much more efficient and will burn cleaner coal," thereby reducing certain types of emissions, Dalton said.

Emissions of carbon dioxide, though, will more than double.

Following Dellinger's statement, two other candidates, Winston-Salem City Councilor Dan Besse and Canton Mayor Pat Smathers, also said they oppose the Cliffside project. Besse, a longtime environmental activist, said he welcomed Dellinger as a "new arrival" to the debate.

"We need to be certain that we exhaust the potential from alternative energy and renewable sources before we make the massive investment required for new coal and nuclear plants," Besse said, citing a new state law that shifts the investment to ratepayers.

Smathers said he supports coal only on an interim basis until alternatives are developed.

Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said Monday the company is willing to discuss the plan with any candidates for public office.

"We think we've made a strong case for it, and we'd be happy to discuss the pros about the project," Wheeless said.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue is running for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2008 against State Treasurer Richard Moore. They haven't yet taken a public position on the Cliffside plant. The primaries are set for May 6.


Very glad to see this

Nothing like a good, hard-fought election to get issues on the table. Nice job, Hampton. And a good response from Dan Besse, too.

As to Pat's comment about "interim" . . . I don't think there's much likelihood of a coal plant actually being interim. Once operating, it'll keep operating until all the mountaintops are removed.


This certainly makes my day!

Good if we could just get the candidates for Governor on board???

I'm kind of disappointed in

I'm kind of disappointed in the comment from Pat Smathers about it being "interim" - and I'd like to hear him explain it more. Like you, A, I think once it's in place, it won't go away. In fact, there's a certain wastefulness about expending the money and equipment and energy to build a plant that is intended to be an "interim" facility.

So I'd like to hear more from Pat about what he meant by that.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

It's 2008...and looks like the Dalton-Dellinger race for Lt Gov

It's 2008...and looks like the Dellinger campaign is geared up.

If people haven't figured it out, Hampton is the best Dem candidate who can win the general election.

Should be a great year for Democrats!

Dellinger comes out

Much like his disturbingly opportunistic post about eugenics last month (on which I held my tongue, mind you, though I found it mind-meltingly crass to trot out the subject in an overtly political context) Hamp has spied a hot-button issue, wandered over to his computer and dashed off a Press Release. A Press Release. To the Press.

Well guess what just shot to the top of my list of New Years resolutions? Empty Rhetoric Smack Down.

To wit:

We already know that Dan Besse was appointed to the Environmental Management Commission by Governor Hunt in 1993 and that while serving on the EMC for 12 years he was the Hearing Officer on Clean Air Rules where he busted through some tough, tough negotiations just to maintain strong controls on toxic air pollution and then rallied the EMC to STRENGTHEN controls on nitrogen oxide emissions, truck soot emissions, and that lovely smelling stuff that spews out of paper mills. Yes, we know that.

But even more directly to the point on Cliffside: Dan wrote the law that the General Assembly passed in 1982 that restricted the use of "construction work in progress" funding for utilities.

In the summer of 2007 the General Assembly overturned that restriction and Duke was able to push for the construction of Cliffside as well as its new nuclear plant in South Carolina.

Dan was in Raleigh last summer to fight against the repeal of that law. Walter Dalton was in Raleigh last summer to vote FOR the repeal of that law. Hamp was in Raleigh last summer as well, but we can only assume that the issue hadn't yet caught his attention because he didn't do anything.

Not so much as a press release.

As a lawyer, Dan has represented environmental and consumer groups before the Utilities Commission and SUCCESSFULLY fought against the construction of new power plants.

For instance: his advocacy (on behalf of Hamp and his neighbors in the Triangle) includes the action that stopped the construction of new nuclear units at the Sharon Harris plant.

In addition, Dan has WORKED on the Clean Smokestack Act (which regulates power plant emissions) and has spent his entire career drafting bills, negotiating with industry folks and legislators and pushing for the passage of state laws that will encourage the use of energy efficient technologies and renewable resources as ALTERNATIVES to new coal and nuclear construction.

BlueNC friends: the thing that you and I and Hamp and everyone who is the slightest bit media savvy knows is that anyone can write a press release. We all know that most of the time it's going to fall into the hands of a staff writer who probably doesn't have ALL the background on an issue. That's why press releases are such WONDERFUL cheap little treasures to fling out: They prey upon a busy papers' appetite for content and assume a certain amount of naivete on the behalf of the editorial staff. They are a hedge against action. They are a crutch for the disorganized. And this particular one is an insult to the informed.



Remind me to watch the empty rhetoric around you, Frank.

That smackdown stuff has got to sting a little.

I think what I like most about Dan is that he has been doing this stuff all along. He's not changing for the election season - he's running because it's an extension of what he's been doing. Being Lt. Governor will give him a chance to do more of what he's been doing in a bigger way.

For what it's worth, after reading Smathers' answer below, I think he's got the same kind of thing going on, with some different focuses.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

"Interim" Explained

Anglico and Icloud, thanks for expressing your views. As the article says, I “OPPOSE” the plant. What I mean by “interim” is that coal plants and the use of coal as a major fuel should be in the process of being phased out. In the interim, until alternative sources replace coal’s use, we must continue to increase energy efficiency, stress conservation and require coal plants to use the most efficient means available to control pollution. I agree with Anglico, there is no such thing as a new interim plant. When it comes to protecting the environment, North Carolina should never be satisfied with the status quo and should strive to do better. As the only Lt. Governor candidate who actually lives in the mountains, (between the Blue Ridge and the Smokies) as my family has for eight generations, no one cares more deeply about these mountains and the effect development and pollution have on them. For me, it is not just talk and political positioning, it is reality! I will continue to protect one of our state’s greatest resources in my current position as a mayor from the mountains and in the future as your Lt. Governor. It is always a pleasure conversing with you, and I look forward to doing so in 2008. For now, I am off to enjoy New Year’s Dinner with my family. Happy New Year!

Thanks for the explanation, Pat.

I'm doing my best to not leap to conclusions this election cycle, and guys like you with intelligent answers make that much more simple. Thanks.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

What about the cons, Randy?

"We think we've made a strong case for it, and we'd be happy to discuss the pros about the project," Wheeless said.

Tell you what, why don't you discuss it here? BlueNC is brimming with local, state and national elected officials and candidates, making it a model of "efficiency" as far as communications and access are concerned.

While you're here, maybe you can explain to everybody what the pros are about:

a) releasing six million tons of carbon dioxide every year,

b) using up 21 million gallons of our precious fresh water every day,

c) emitting ten times more mercury than the old plants do, not to mention huge increases in arsenic, cadmium, etc.,

d) and using a couple of billion dollars of rate/taxpayer's money just to poison us and our childrens' future.

And yes, this is a rhetorical request, because I fully realize that's not the way you guys do business. But know this—the days of only having to please a handful of people behind closed doors are running out, and you'll have a lot to answer for in the near future.

Well said, Steve.

I hope you'll send the email to Mr. Wheeless himself, though as you indicated, it's not likely the Mouthpiece for Big Energy has much interest in responding to the rabble.

Invitation sent.

Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

If he shows up and starts talking about Ron Paul, just remember—it's not my fault. :)


Oh yes it is your fault.

Welcome to the fight.

I welcome Hampton's late-breaking support on this issue. As usual, he is taking good positions as a candidate in this campaign.

I do wish that he had gotten involved last summer when we were fighting against the terrible change to utility financing laws that has encouraged Duke's poor decision on Cliffside. He might have used his influence with Mike Easley constructively at that critical decision point, to help get the governor involved in opposing a bad legislative move.

Or, he could have urged the governor to encourage the Utilities Commission's Public Staff (which is headed by a gubernatorial appointee)to oppose granting a certificate allowing the new Cliffside plant to move forward. Attorney General Roy Cooper's staff opposed the certificate. If the Public Staff had joined in the opposition, the Utilities Commission might well have stopped the new unit then.

Now, we are late in the process of the final major state regulatory approval (air quality permit) needed for construction to begin. There's still a chance to win a delay and reconsideration, but it has gotten tougher with every missed opportunity.

Of course, we all learn things in campaigns. I'm learning a great deal myself. I think it's reasonable to hope that Hampton's epiphany on this issue is genuine, and that whatever happens in this campaign, he will get active in real environmental issue work on a continuing basis.

This is a long-term effort, and we need all the skilled and talented people we can bring to the push.

Dan Besse
Democrat for Lieutenant Governor

Dan Besse

What are the alternatives?

After reading these comments, I can see there have been some conclusions already made. First-There is not enough available electricity for the growth of the area, and second, the electric co decided that the coal was the least objectionable, or cheapest way to go. Since, some of the replies and statements were made by people who might be in a more influential, or knowledgeable position, maybe they can answer one of my questions. Since "alternative fuel" sources,( or renewable) is usually mentioned, How far along are we in getting electric generation done by any of these methods?

Great Question!

I'd like to hear the answer to that, too.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. --Gandhi

Alternatives not the problem

While the answer may have been different a few years ago, it's no longer possible to make a straight-faced argument that alternatives to coal are unavailable or too expensive. Consider the following:

1. As of 2006, North Carolina was spending less than 10% of the national average on conservation and efficiency programs. The good news is that we are sitting on an absolute goldmine of potential energy efficiency savings. Don't look to Duke to give you a straight answer on this - or admit that they're actually one of the worst players in the energy industry for spending on conservation and efficiency - because they make money on selling power, not saving it.

2. On December 18th, A California-based company named Nanosolar began shipping their first orders of a new generation of thin-film solar cells that promise to produce electricity at a LOWER cost per watt than coal. In the latest issue of American Scientist, researchers demonstrated how we could eliminate all energy imports by 2020 and reduce coal use by 50% by 2050 using solar energy alone - at a small fraction of the cost of the Iraq war.

3. A plethora of additional alternatives - particularly wind and biomass energy production - are already approaching cost-competitiveness with coal-based energy and have excellent potential for development in North Carolina. A study by LaCapra Associates commissioned last year by the NC Utilities Commission demonstrated that conservation, efficiency and renewable energy could meet NC's projected energy demand at a cost not much greater than coal. Almost everyone but Duke would agree that now, with falling renewables prices and skyrocketing costs for coal and coal-based generating equipment, it would be CHEAPER to meet our energy needs through alternatives to coal.

Our problem is not a lack of alternatives to coal. The problem is that economically and politically powerful corporations like Duke with a vested interest in a coal-based energy economy stand to make a whole lot of money if they can get a few more coal plants built before the country gets serious about addressing global warming. Simple as that.

As long as the utility companies write our legislation for us,

How far along are we in getting electric generation done by any of these methods?

you'll see precious little actual production from these sources. Aside from the fact that they can't make nearly as much profit from numerous small generators vs a behemoth like Cliffside, they don't operate under the same imperatives that we do.

Think of it like this—coal is not only cheap as hell (relatively speaking), the deposits in this country alone can be easily classified as abundant. Meaning, power companies don't have to worry about supply. And that's where their imperatives stop.

People dying in mines and mountaintops being destroyed? So what. That's not their concern. People being exposed to heightened levels of toxins from power plants? It's not that bad, suck it up. Carbon emissions reaching world climate-changing levels? Big deal. Move away from the beach.

As Lazyhorse said above, alternatives are no longer too expensive, even without factoring in the future costs associated with continued coal usage. Plainly put, the power companies are addicted to coal. It's time for an intervention.