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SC board pulls Duke's water quality permit

South Carolina yesterday revoked a water quality permit Duke Energy needs to secure a 50 year license to operate its dams along the Catawba and Wateree Rivers. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control approved Duke's permit in May. But since then two environmental groups and South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster have urged the agency to reconsider its decision. McMaster told the agency's board yesterday that the permit would interfere with a lawsuit he's filed against the state of North Carolina. The suit contends that North Carolina is siphoning off more than its fair share of water. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear that case. The outcome could determine how much say South Carolina gets in water decisions made upstream in North Carolina. Yesterday, the agency's board voted unanimously to revoke the permit. Board member Glenn McCall says the group didn't want to squelch McMaster's suit. "The Supreme Court may use that as precedent and Duke Power may have used that and North Carolina as precedent that the agency agreed with the current flow so that it should remain at the current levels," explains McCall. McCall also says the department didn't do a thorough enough job of looking at the permit's overall impact on fish and other wildlife in South Carolina. Patrick Moore is with the Coastal Conservation League, one of the environmental groups that appealed the water quality permit. He says he's pleased with the decision. "It's a recognition by the DHEC board that these are precedent setting issues that will affect water supply in our state for fifty years," says Moore. Duke spokesman Andy Thompson, says the board has reversed a sound decision by its staff. "This was after a very exhaustive and lengthy analysis of the model we will use to operate the hydro-electric chain along the Catawba and Wateree basin," adds Thompson. Thompson says the permit required Duke to release plenty of water into South Carolina. Duke says it will consider whether to appeal the decision.