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Air Quality

Santee Cooper Pee Dee Generating Station

Description of Project

Santee Cooper applied for a DHEC air permit to construct and operate a new 1,320 megawatt power plant on a 2,709-acre tract of land 25 miles southeast of Florence, near Kingsburg and Pamplico, in Florence County.
(View a map of the proposed location.)

DHEC's air permit allows the company to build a new power plant consisting of two coal-fired boilers. Each boiler would have a maximum rated input capacity of 5,700 million British Thermal Units (BTU) per hour. The boilers would be capable of burning coal and petroleum coke (petcoke). Each boiler would provide steam to a generator to produce a nominal 660 megawatts of electricity.

Public Response

The Santee Cooper Pee Dee coal-fired power plant project has generated tremendous interest. DHEC received more than 2,000 comments from citizens, environmental groups, and government entities. Many people were concerned about the amount and types of pollution that the plant would emit, how human health would be affected, and how the environment would be impacted. Many also supported the project.

DHEC has reviewed all state and federal air quality requirements and found that the proposed power plant can meet all the standards. These requirements are designed to protect health and the environment.

Permit Requirements

DHEC's air permit requires the installation of air pollution control devices. The control devices would reduce emissions of all sizes of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and other metal hazardous air pollutants, sulfuric acid, hydrogen chloride, and hydrogen fluoride.

This project triggered many state and federal air quality regulations. The regulations include the two most stringent air standards: Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and case-by-case Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT). These standards require Santee Cooper to install the best available control technology, meet the same emission limitations as the best controlled sources in the country, and demonstrate that the project will not worsen air quality in South Carolina.

Although the air permit has been issued, the approval process for the Santee Cooper Pee Dee plant is ongoing. As with any project of this magnitude, there are a number of separate permits needed that address a broad range of environmental concerns. A few of the additional permits are: an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and wetlands permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; a 401 Water Quality Certification from DHEC's Bureau of Water; a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for ash ponds from DHEC's Bureau of Water; and a solid waste landfill permit from DHEC's Bureau of Land and Waste Management. Santee Cooper must meet the limits or standards set by these and all other required permits.

If the EIS or any other permit impacts the air permit, DHEC's air permit can and will be modified.

Mercury Concerns Addressed

Mercury: Some citizens expressed concerns about mercury emissions from the proposed plant and how the emissions might harm fish and public health. The air permit for the power plant requires:

  • Mercury Monitoring: In addition to installing a continuous emissions mercury monitor in each boiler stack, Santee Cooper will install an ambient air mercury monitoring station and associated meteorological station near the plant. Information from the ambient station will be used to assess impacts from the power plant and supplement the state-wide mercury monitoring network.

  • Mercury Controls: The federal courts recently vacated (or eliminated) the Clean Air Mercury Rule which the EPA had developed to permanently cap and reduce mercury emissions from coal fired power plants. This court ruling left the country without a national regulation for mercury emissions from power plants. The ruling requires the EPA to establish by regulation a new Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standard. Until the EPA establishes this new national standard, states are required to set stringent mercury limits in air quality permits for new plants on a case-by-case basis. The MACT standard that DHEC's Bureau of Air Quality developed specifically for the proposed Santee Cooper plant has been placed in this permit. Once a federal MACT is established by the EPA, the Santee Cooper facility will be required to meet that new federal standard. Consequently, Santee Cooper will have to meet the most stringent standard, whether it is the current permit limit or the new federal standard.

  • Mercury Reductions: Santee Cooper will conduct a six-month trial study to see if mercury emissions can be reduced further using sorbents - solid particles that attract and bind with mercury.

  • Mercury Reduction Plan: DHEC is also developing a statewide mercury reduction plan that will assess the current loading of mercury to the environment from local and regional sources, not just sources requiring air permits such as this facility. This plan will identify ways that the public, industry, government and other stakeholders can reduce risk from mercury exposure.

Ozone, Particulate Matter and Greenhouse Gases Addressed

Ozone and Particulate Matter: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standards are meant to protect human health and welfare. EPA reviews the standards periodically and makes changes as necessary to protect public health and the environment. Air quality in the Pee Dee area currently meets all the national standards.

Should EPA find that the amount of ozone or particulate matter in the area’s air exceeds national standards prior to start of operation of the Santee Cooper plant, DHEC's air permit can be reopened and emission limits may be revised. The same is true if DHEC determines that emission reductions are needed to ensure that the Pee Dee area remains in compliance with national air quality standards.

Greenhouse Gases: South Carolina continues to exercise leadership in addressing global warming. One way is through the Governor's Climate, Energy and Commerce Advisory Committee. South Carolina is a founding member of The Climate Registry. The state has also established Clean Air Coalitions which focus on reducing local air emission sources and improving air quality (by reducing ozone and particulate matter levels and greenhouse gas emissions).

EPA has recently published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. DHEC will reopen and revise this permit to incorporate additional requirements related to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions as necessary to comply with future state or federal statutes or rules.

Santee Cooper's Need for the Facility

There has been much discussion on Santee Cooper's stated need to construct two power boilers. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will address need and alternatives in its Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). If the EIS prevents or limits construction of both boilers or determines that an alternative energy source is the preferred approach to meet Santee Cooper's need, DHEC's air permit will be modified accordingly.

DHEC's Bureau of Air Quality Decision

On Tuesday, December 16, 2008, the Bureau of Air Quality approved the air permit to construct the Pee Dee Generating Station. Below are the documents that make up DHEC's Bureau of Air Quality decision on Santee Cooper's air permit application.

All documents are in pdf format. Some have been scanned as images and may not be searchable. Several of the comment documents are especially large, so readers may want to right-click on the link and download the document before viewing. Viewing these larger documents within an Internet browser may make downloads slower.

Response To Comments

Comments received on Notice of MACT Approval (NOMA)

Comments received on draft Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit

Comments from Santee Cooper

Comments from Southern Environmental Law Center

Applications, Correspondence, Notices, and Related Documents

Below are the pertinent documents used in making the permit decision and all public notice documents.

Notice of Appeal Procedure

If you have questions, please contact the individual listed below at (803) 898-4123 or via email.

Elizabeth J. Basil, Director
Engineering Services Division, Bureau of Air Quality
2600 Bull Street
Columbia, SC 29201

For more information please contact the Bureau of Air Quality at (803) 898-4123 or by email.