Action Alerts  


This alert contains information about the proposed agreement between NC Division of Air Quality and Duke Power and Carolina Power & Light which would allow most of the coal fired electric plants to exceed state visible pollution regulations until 2002.  The Director of DAQ, Alan Klimek, may sign this agreement, the "SOC," this week.  Please call (919-715-6233), email, fax (919-715-7175), or write him (address below) after reading this alert.  Thanks.

posted 8/20/1999

August 16, 1999

Kimberly Davis
Division of Air Quality
PO Box 29580
Raleigh, NC 27699-1641
via facsimile: 919-733-1812
Re: Carolina Power & Light Special Order by Consent and
        Duke Energy Corporation Special Order by Consent

Dear Ms. Davis:

We write to comment on the proposed Special Orders by Consent (SOC) for Carolina Power & Light and Duke Energy Corporation now under consideration by the EMC.   

The CP&L SOC would allow six coal-fired facilities in Chatham, Wayne, Person, New Hanover, and Robeson counties to postpone compliance with existing visible emission regulations and new source performance standards  until 2002.  The proposed Special Order by Consent for Duke Energy Corporation would allow the same three year delay for compliance with these standards at seven coal-fired facilities in Stokes, Gaston, Rutherford, Rowan, Rockingham, and Catawba counties.  The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League opposes the granting of these SOC's and asks that the Director not approve these orders. 


CP&L and Duke account for 68% of the NOx emissions and 75% of the SO2 emissions from all stationary air pollution sources in North Carolina, almost 1.3 billion pounds per year

Approximately 80% of the 54 million pounds of toxic release inventory compounds listed by CP&L and Duke Energy is airborne pollution

CP&L and Duke Energy are out of compliance with state and federal regulations

Both utilities seek to lower existing pollution standards

The SOC's bypass normal rulemaking procedures

CP&L employs delay tactics which prolong installation of pollution controls


The Director of DAQ should not sign the SOC's

No reduction in the existing air quality standards should be considered

The NC EMC should hold a series of public hearings on air pollution impacts

The DAQ should do a statewide analysis of economic and environmental impacts of visibility regulations, acid rain and greenhouse gasses, ground-level ozone, and air toxics

Acid Rain, Particulates, and Ozone

The six CP&L coal-fired plants listed in the SOC released 400 million pounds of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, fine particles, and volatile organic compounds in 1996.  Duke Energy's seven plants released over 900 million pounds of these criteria pollutants.  Together the 13 plants account for 68% of the nitrous oxide emissions and 75% of the sulfur dioxide emissions from all  stationary sources of air pollution in North Carolina.  And particulate emissions (PM-10) for the same plants account for 52% of permitted point source discharges.

No assessment of the full impact of this regulatory change has been done by the Division of Air Quality.  We request that a complete analysis be completed by DAQ including economic and environmental impacts of reduced visibility on tourism, of higher ozone levels on medical treatment,  of  acid rain on forests and agriculture, and wood products industries. 

Hazardous Air Pollution

A Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is now required annually by the Environmental Protection Agency for all coal-fired electric generating stations.  The six CP&L coal-fired plant's listed in the SOC--Cape Fear, H.F. Lee, Mayo, Roxboro, L.V. Sutton, and  W.H. Weatherspoon--released 32 million pounds of toxic compounds in 1998, mostly air emissions.  In 1998 Duke Energy's coal fired steam stations--Belews Creek, Dan River, G.G. Allen, Riverbend, Buck, Marshall, and Cliffside--emitted approximately 22 million pounds of toxic compounds. These emissions result from the burning of thousands of tons of coal.  The releases include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid, barium, manganese, copper, chromium, zinc, arsenic, nickel, ammonia, beryllium, chlorine, cobalt, lead, selenium and mercury. 

Airborne particulates (PM-10) consist of 1) solids which adsorb hazardous air pollutants, and 2) droplets of liquid pollutants including volatile organic compounds. These pollutants can travel great distances on prevailing winds.  Approximately 80% of the 54 million pounds of toxic release inventory compounds listed by CP&L and Duke Energy is airborne pollution.  Visible or invisible, it is a toxic whirlwind which must be overcome.

Utilities Are Out Of Compliance With Existing Regulations

Carolina Power & Light and Duke Energy stipulate in their respective SOC's that each is in violation of 15A NCAC 2D .0521 Control of Visible Emissions.  "The COMPANY has discharged and continues to have the potential to discharge visible emissions to the excess of the Visible Emissions Standard."  (SOC paragraph 1.D)

Regulatory Roll-Back

Section II.B of the SOC states that excess visible emissions for each plant "will be allowed" above the limits set in 2D .0521 (40% six-minute opacity) and 40 CFR 60.42 for NSPS units (20% six-minute opacity).  The SOC does not contain an upper opacity limit which effectively allows a 100% opacity standard for any given six-minute period under the exemption.  The SOC contains criteria which allow excess emissions (EE) and continuous opacity monitor downtime (MD) of up to 8%.  This formula is included:

Total Excess Emission Time
      %EE =     __________________________________________  x 100      
(Total Source Operating Time - Monitor Downtime)

If we assume a total excess emission time of 161 hours, total plant operating time of 2190 (full time operation for 1/4 year), and monitor downtime of 175 hours, the %EE = 7.9%.  But the total time under which the plant could exceed the requirements of the SOC would be 336 hours, or 15.3% of total source operating time.  For 14 days a quarter, and 56 days a year, a plant may exceed the 40%/20% six-minute standard at up to 100% opacity under the formula prescribed in the CP&L and Duke Energy SOCs.  The language in the SOC disguises the real impact of this order.  For nearly one-sixth of total operation time most of the coal-fired plants in the state could emit pollutants which would blacken the sky.  The SOC's part IV contains alternative requirements for control of particulates and visible emissions by electrostatic precipitators under a table contained in 15A NCAC 2D .0536.  This rule sets specific annual average opacity levels for each of 44 generating units operated by CP&L and Duke Energy ranging from 5% to 25%. However,  an annual opacity average of 20% would allow 40 days at 100% opacity and 325 days at 10% opacity.  This rule dates back to 1983 during pre-Clean Air Act Amendment days and is not the primary rule cited in the air permits for the coal-fired plants.

This summer North Carolinians are suffering through a series of record temperatures and high ozone days.  No reduction in the existing standards should be considered at this time.

Improper Rulemaking Request

The orders state that CP&L and Duke Energy may submit a formal request to the Commission and DAQ for a rulemaking change to 15A NCAC 2D .0521 to establish alternative opacity standards.  This amounts to stealth rulemaking which seeks to bypass the normal procedure of working group discussions, legislative debate, committee amendment process, and approval by the Governor.

The regulations which the company seeks relief from are 15A NCAC 2D .0524 "New Source Performance Standards," and 15A NCAC 2D .0521 "Control of Visible Emissions". These regulations became effective on January 3, 1988 and February 1, 1976, respectively.  I cannot understand how both utilities could fail to meet twenty year old air pollution standards designed to control emissions from coal-fired electric power plants. Three additional years of postponed compliance will not benefit the people of North Carolina.  

A Strategy of Delay

The permits for these coal-fired steam electric plants stipulate the use of electrostatic precipitators (ESP) for the control of visible emissions and particulate matter.  The public notice for the SOC states, "This order allows the Company time to evaluate the condition of their electrostatic precipitators and to explore various improvement measures."  Electrostatic precipitators were first developed in 1906.  They are very effective at removing fine particles from the air and are in extensive use throughout the coal-fired electric utility industry. 

"Electrostatic precipitators find widespread use as effective air pollution control devices in many industries.  Although they often demand higher capital investment in comparison with other gas cleaning methods, the low operating and maintenance costs, the high collection efficiency and the ability to face severe operating conditions make ESPs suitable in pollution problems characterizing many process installations such as coal-burning power stations, cement plants, iron industries and glass manufacture."         (Economical Comparison of Conventional and Pulsed ESPs in Industrial Applications, 6th International Conference on Electrostatic Precipitation, 1997)    

CP&L submitted an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to the NC Utilities Commission in 1995 (Docket No. E-100, Sub 75B).  The  IRP states that all of CP&L's coal-fired electric plants would have to meet SO2 and NOx goals of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA).

The IRP states:  "During Phase II, which begins January 1, 2000, the SO2 reduction goals are to be reached through more stringent requirements at virtually all fossil fuel generating units.  All of CP&L's coal-fired units are Phase II-affected units."        (CP&L Integrated Resource Plan, p. 4-1, April 28, 1995)

CP&L was well-aware of the regulatory landscape.  Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems for recordkeeping and reporting were instituted to confirm SO2 and NOx emissions reductions.

Concerned with more stringent emissions requirements, CP&L outlined its plan: "In order to maintain flexibility and satisfy all SO2 and potential air toxics requirements at the lowest cost, decisions on investments in ESP equipment should be delayed as long as possible. Second, decisions to switch to lower sulfur fuel or to build a scrubber should also be delayed for as long as possible."  (emphasis added)        (CP&L Integrated Resource Plan, p. 4-10, April 28, 1995)

In 1995 the NC Utility Commission held public hearings on the Duke Power and CP&L IRP's. In city after city citizens spoke against rising air pollution levels, the negative impacts on their children's health,  and called for real reductions in acid rain, ground-level ozone, and air toxics.  IRP's contain a 15 year forecast of electricity demand, environmental impact, and regulatory compliance.  The utilities' Special Order by Consent is a deliberate delay tactic which should not be permitted.  

Code Red

In April Governor Hunt announced his initiative to reduce air pollution visibility impacts from fossil fuel combustion.  The CP&L SOC and the identical Duke Energy Corporation SOC clearly run counter to the stated intent of the Governor.  The impact of these electric plants on the state's air quality is huge.  The increase in bronchitis, asthma, respiratory distress, emergency room visits, and mortality from unprecedented levels of air pollution in North Carolina require caution above all. 

At a minimum, the people of North Carolina deserve a full public debate on these issues.  Therefore, we request that the NC Environmental Management Commission hold public hearings on this matter and that they consider the combined SOC's environmental, economic, and public health impacts.  We advocate a series of hearings to be held in mountain, piedmont, and coastal regions which would allow citizens concerned with this issue to comment.

Finally, Environmental Management Commission approval of the SOC's would amount to 13 permit modifications without full public process.  Why are CP&L and Duke Energy seeking to avoid public scrutiny of these changes in permitted opacity levels and a three-year delay in compliance?  The people of Moncure, Goldsboro, Roxboro, Wilmington, Lumberton, Walnut Cove, Eden, Belmont, Mount Holly, Spencer, Terrell, and Cliffside and all of North Carolina deserve fair treatment and public hearings before permit changes in these steam-generating units are approved. 

Respectfully submitted,

Louis Zeller
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League

Allen Spalt, Director
Agricultural Resources Center
115 W. Main St.
Carrboro, NC 27510

Wade Davidson
Appalachian Voices
804 Poplar Grove Rd.
Boone, NC 28607