STATUS: In progress with opposition
OPPOSITION: Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, North Carolina Waste Awareness & Reduction Network, National Parks Conservation Association
BACKGROUND: In May 2005, Duke Energy filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission to modernize and expand its Cliffside power station by constructing an 825 megawatt coal plant at an estimated cost of $1.8 billion. In January 2008, Duke Energy received the final air permit from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Air Quality. Construction began on January 30, 2008 with completion estimated for early 2012.
The project is hotly contested by Sierra Club and other environmental groups and has been the target of extensive litigation and civil disobedience action due to the alleged environmental impact of CO2 emissions and hazardous air pollutants. In 2006 opponents sued claiming federal tax credits for the project were illegal. This case was dismissed in November 2008. In March 2008, the opponents petitioned the North Carolina Division of Air Quality for revocation of the construction permit. After an extensive round of additional reviews and public hearings, the permit was upheld and the opponents’ appeal is pending. In July 2008, the opponents sued claiming the developer violated the Clean Air Act by beginning construction of the proposed coal plant without a site-specific maximum available control technology demonstration. In December, the U.S. District Court ruled for the opponents but allowed the developer to continue construction. The developer appealed and the appeal was stayed to allow the State regulatory process to proceed. In July 2009, the U.S. District Court denied a motion to enforce its December judgment and instead abstained from asserting jurisdiction until and unless the State proceedings were found to be inadequate. In August, the Court awarded the opponents over $500,000.00 in attorney fees and costs. The developer appealed. That appeal is pending.
The project has been the target of demonstrations in addition to the legal action. In November 2007, members of Asheville Rising Tide, a grassroots organization dedicated to stopping fossil fuels, and local college students blockaded Duke Energy's headquarters in opposition to the new coal plant. Two students dressed as polar bears locked the main entrance to the headquarters shut with a bike lock. The protestors were arrested. In April 2008, eight protesters attempting to stop construction of the plant locked themselves to bulldozers at the site. The protestors also roped off the construction site with "Global Warming Crime Scene" tape and held banners that read "Coal Fuels Climate Change" and "Social Change, not Climate Change." The protestors were arrested by police for trespassing. There was a small rally and “civil disobedience event” in April 2009 at the developer’s headquarters to protest the Cliffside plant.
Construction, however, continues.
LAST UPDATED: November 30, 2010