For Immediate Release
Stephanie Kodish, NPCA Clean Air Counsel, 865.964.1774
Josh Mogerman, NRDC, 312.780.7424 or 773.853.5384
Ulla Reeves, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Regional Programs Director, 828.713.7486
Michael Regan, Environmental Defense Fund, 919.862.6593
Court to Decide if Cliffside Coal Fired Power Plant Violates Clean Air Act
Environmental Groups Ask For Maximum Protection From Toxic Pollutants
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Conservation groups today asked a federal court in Western
North Carolina to require Duke Energy to control hazardous air
pollution from its Cliffside coal-fired power plant to the maximum
extent possible. The groups told the court that construction on the
800-megawatt addition should be stopped because their air permit does
not adequately control dangerous air emissions, including mercury and
dozens of carcinogens such as arsenic, chromium, and dioxin.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and the Natural Resource
Defense Council (NRDC) are representing Environmental Defense Fund,
National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Sierra Club and
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. The groups represent thousands of
North Carolina residents, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains
and other nearby natural areas already affected by pollution from
"All we are asking is for Duke Energy to ensure that the people in
North Carolina have the same health protection as folks in the rest of
the country," says Patrice Simms, a Senior Attorney with the Natural
Resources Defense Council. "Duke is continuing to build its
conventional pulverized coal plant in violation of the clear
requirements of the Clean Air Act. It is not only illegal, but it puts
the people of North Carolina at risk of exposure to dangerous air
toxics. Construction must be stopped until Duke conforms to the rule of
The groups asked the federal court to instruct Duke Energy of its
obligation to adequately control air pollution and stop construction
until such controls are embedded in its air permit. A recent federal
court decision made clear that coal-fired power plants are subject to
the federal Clean Air Act's most stringent air pollution controls,
however, Duke began construction on the Cliffside expansion only10 days
before the decision was issued.
"Construction of the new Cliffside facility under its current air
permit commits North Carolinians to pollution from outdated, dirty coal
technology for the next 50 years," stated Ulla Reeves, regional program
director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "Building a coal plant
with today's knowledge of global warming and the threats of mercury is
Intended to protect public health, air quality, and national parks,
the Clean Air Act requires new coal-fired power plants use the most
stringent pollution controls for reducing 66 of the most highly toxic
emissions, including mercury and lead, which can cause serious and
irreversible adverse effects to people's health, including cancer,
heart disease, stroke, and neurological impairment. Until Duke Energy
determines how it will limit emissions of these pollutants using the
"Maximum Available Control Technology," which the company has yet to
do, construction of the massive new coal-burner at Cliffside is in
violation the law.
"Forcing Duke to conduct a proper analysis would be a touchdown for
public health and air quality," said Michael Regan, Southeast climate
and air policy director for Environmental Defense Fund. "Duke Energy
deserves the penalty flag for constructing a plant that fails to
guarantee maximum protection from dangerous toxic emissions."
"Ultimately, it is the neighbors of Cliffside, their children and
grandchildren, and economic resources like Great Smoky Mountains
National Park that will suffer the effects of this coal plant's air
pollution," said Stephanie Kodish, clean air counsel with the nonprofit
National Parks Conservation Association. "North Carolinians and
national park visitors want to breathe clean air; the laws in place to
ensure our air is clean shouldn't be ignored."
Already one of the nation's most polluted national parks, Great
Smoky Mountains National Park is expected to be greatly affected by
pollution from Cliffside, which will harm the park's air and water
quality and affect wildlife, including several endangered species.
Additionally, surveys have shown that visitors will avoid national
parks with poor air quality, which affects the local economy.
On October 15, the eve of the federal court hearing, Duke submitted
a letter to the North Carolina Division of Air Quality falsely claiming
that it is not required to limit its hazardous air pollution, because
its emissions will not surpass the threshold. A review of emissions
from similar-sized coal-fired power plants undermines this assertion.
"This midnight hour dodge is just the most recent example of Duke
Energy's long history of avoiding compliance with the Clean Air Act,"
said Molly Diggins, state director of the North Carolina Sierra Club.
The National Parks Conservation Association's recent report, Dark
Horizons, called attention to the threat posed by coal-fired power
plants to Great Smoky Mountains and other parks nationwide. The report
is available online at www.npca.org/darkhorizons