Coal Plant Setback in NC!

This just in last night.  A ruling by the federal judge in Asheville stop cliffsiderevoked the 800 MW Cliffside coal plant air quality permit because it does not meet Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT) regulations for mercury.  This comes on the heels of a ruling by a DC circuit court earlier this year that the EPA’s 2005 mercury rule was illegal because it evaded mandatory cuts in toxic mercury pollution.  NRDC and the Southern Environmental Law Center represented Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in this lawsuit.  Duke Energy now has 70 days to update their technology and comply with the MACT and if they don’t the court has the ability to halt construction of the plant!!   The ruling is available online at

Media release from NRDC, Southern Environmental Law Center and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on this victory follows.

December 2, 2008

Josh Mogerman, NRDC, 312-780-7424 (office) or 773-853-5384 (mobile),
Kathleen Sullivan, SELC, 919-945-7106 (office) or
Christina Honkonen, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-637-6055 X 10 (office) or 865-228-1567 (mobile),

Cliffside Must Clean Up: Court Finds Violations of Clean Air Act

Federal court decision upholds concerns over toxic emissions from plant expansion and closes pollution loopholes

ASHEVILLE, NC (December 2, 2008) — A federal court ruling today will force Duke Energy to meet stringent Clean Air Act requirements for control of hazardous air pollution from the 800-megawatt addition to its Cliffside coal-fired power plant. The judge sided with conservation groups challenging Duke’s failure to obtain pollution limits that would adequately control toxic air pollution. The decision is particularly important as it closes what had been perceived as a loophole that allowed similar plants to skirt pollution requirements.

The decision will force Duke to undergo a stringent process to investigate the plant’s likely pollution levels and the appropriate technology to control toxics released from the massive new coal boiler. This process must begin within 10 days and result in controls that live up to the strict requirements of the Clean Air Act within 60 days. If they do not comply, the court could halt construction on the plant.

The court’s decision clearly rejected Duke Energy’s arguments that their plant had slipped through a loophole allowing them to avoid federal pollution controls. Additionally, the court rejected assertions that Duke could substitute voluntary efforts for the mandatory requirements of the Clean Air Act and Duke’s last-minute claims that the plant’s emissions were too small to require additional controls.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Southern Environmental Law Center represented Environmental Defense Fund, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Sierra Club and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in the case. 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 Cliffside.

The ruling is available online at

Following are reactions from the groups involved:

“The court confirmed that building a coal-fired plant without proper controls for mercury and dozens of other hazardous air pollutants is wholly unacceptable,” said John Suttles, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). “This decision about Duke’s North Carolina power plant should have people around the country breathing a big sigh of relief.”

“The trend against dirty coal-fired power plants is becoming clear,” said Ben Longstreth, a Senior Attorney for NRDC. “The Court rejected Duke’s efforts to sidestep the stringent control of mercury and other hazardous toxins. This forces them to do the right thing for communities all over North Carolina by living up to the Clean Air Act.”

“We are pleased with the court’s rejection of Duke’s arguments,” said Stephen Smith executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Now it is time for Jim Rogers to stop building coal plants and focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy to power North Carolina into the 21st century.”

“This ruling is particularly significant because other coal plant proponents around the country are attempting the same dodge that Duke tried here,” said Patrice Simms, Senior Attorney for NRDC. “This decision sends a strong signal that it is time for these other plants to stop playing games and come into compliance with these important clean air requirements.”


The Natural Resources Defense Council is an international, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

Founded in 1986, SELC is the only non-profit regional organization dedicated to protecting the native forests, wetlands, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and rural landscapes in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. SELC works in partnership with more than 100 diverse groups on legal advocacy, policy reform and public education to achieve lasting environmental protections.

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization working to promote responsible energy choices that solve global warming problems and ensure clean, safe, healthy communities throughout the Southeast.

Find the release here:

5 Responses to “Coal Plant Setback in NC!”

  1. 1 Deirdre Dec 3rd, 2008 at 9:55 pm

    that is wonderful! congratulations !!!

  2. 2 Christine Dec 4th, 2008 at 4:44 am


  3. 3 Katherine Dec 4th, 2008 at 6:13 am

    AMAZING!! Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard!

  4. 4 gooseberry Dec 4th, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Someone on this site should have a look at what our British boffins are doing with Fridges…

    It might be more difficult to replace coal with intelligent fridges in the US, because coal is a bigger proportion of electricity generation.
    But it just shows what can be done if you start being positive about renewables and start looking for innovative solutions to solve problems.

  1. 1 U.K. Energy Secretary Calls for 60’s Style “Popular Mobilization” to Fight Climaticide « Johnny Rook’s Climaticide Chronicles Trackback on Dec 9th, 2008 at 11:34 pm
Comments are currently closed.

About Liz

Liz is a North Carolina native who first became involved in college organizing around clean energy.  She cofounded the Energy Action Coalition (EAC) in 2004 and was involved in the youth climate movement through 2008 including helping to start the international youth climate blog: and co-chairing of the EAC Steering Committee from 2006-2008.  She directed the Southern Energy Network, a founding member of EAC, from 2006-09. She has collaborated with a number of community, state, regional and national organizations on fighting new dirty energy facilities and promoting cleaner energy alternatives.  Through her work she became more interested in broader social justice issues, and her involvement with social justice in Knoxville connected her with the Highlander Research and Education Center, where she has been a board member since 2008 ( Currently, she is pursuing a masters degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon, but she hopes to soon return to the South. During the summer of 2013, she co-taught the Cycle the Rockies course with the Wild Rockies Field Institute (

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