Duke Energy attempts to side step South Carolina
Wed August 19, 2009
Duke Energy attempts to side step South Carolina on technicality
Duke Energy is attempting to side-step a road block thrown up by the State of South Carolina in its path toward another 50-year license to control the Catawba-Wateree River. WFAE's Julie Rose reports.
Duke Energy is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, to renew its license on the Catawba River regardless of South Carolina's refusal to issue a water quality certificate. The state was required to issue the certificate within one year of Duke's application. South Carolina regulators issued a preliminary certificate in time, but the Department of Health and Environmental Control Board overturned it two months after the deadline because it said Duke's plan doesn't do enough to protect fish and wildlife.
Duke Energy says the board's final decision came too late.
South Carolina's Attorney General argues the timing of the preliminary certificate is what matters. And staff at FERC agreed in a letter to South Carolina regulators back in 2004.
"They're asking the federal government to cut the state out of the process completely on a technicality instead of defending their position on the science in court," says Patrick Moore of the Coastal Conservation League, which opposes Duke's license.
Duke Energy spokesman Andy Thompson says the utility may also appeal the state's decision in court. But he says asking federal regulators to waive South Carolina's input on the process is fair, because it broke the rules . . .and because Duke Energy knows what's best for the river.
"We believe the operating model we proposed to FERC is in the very best interest of the region," says Thompson. "It'll benefit water quality, fish habitat and recreation uses while also providing hydroelectric energy and water supplies for the region. And we believe it's the best and most balanced approach."
FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller says no license holder has ever managed to sidestep the state water quality certificate on a technical argument like Duke is making.
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FERC spokeswoman Celeste Miller did not specifically refer to Duke Energy's request as a "technical argument." While Duke's argument is unusual, FERC has received similar filings and Miller says the commission looks at each situation based on the facts of that case.