Pee Dee Generating Facility

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{{#badges: CoalSwarm}}The proposal for the Pee Dee Generating Facility was announced in April 2006 by Santee Cooper, a state-owned electric and water utility. The utility proposed that a 600 megawatt pulverized coal-fired power station costing $984 million be built near the Great Pee Dee River in Florence County, South Carolina, near Kingsburg. The utility proposed that the plant would draw cooling water from the nearby Pee Dee River for its supercritical boilers; this river drains into the Waccamaw National Wildlife Reserve.


In announcing the Pee Dee Generating Facility proposal Santee Cooper President and Chief Executive Officer Lonnie Carter stated that "we have been leading up to this announcement for literally two decades." The proposal, he said, would provide 1400 jobs during construction and "approximately 100 full time workers when it becomes commercially operational" in "the fall of 2007".[1]

"The generation plan serves as the company’s long-term road map for building essential base-load generation. Forecasting and data analysis show the company needing new base load generation within the next ten years to accommodate the state’s current and projected growth," Carter stated in a media release.[1]

Santee Cooper stated that the site had been selercted because "it is located close to many of the state’s rural electric cooperatives and only a short distance from the Grand Strand, both of which are experiencing tremendous population growth and where some of Santee Cooper’s growth in energy use is occurring." Other factors were access to the river for cooling water, highway access and proximity to a rail service for coal delivery.[1]

"This facility will utilize the most state-of-the-art environmental control technology, resulting in one of the cleanest power plants in the nation. Scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to remove nitrogen oxide, precipitators to remove particulate matter and more will make this a cutting edge facility, environmentally," the utility stated.[1]

Environmental assessment

In April 2007, Santee Cooper initiated the Environmental Impact Statement process on the plants. On October 9, 2007, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DEHC) issued a draft Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit for the project, provoking an October 25 protest by several environmental groups in Columbia.[2] On November 8, a Pamplico hearing on the DHEC permit was attended by dozens of project opponents – as well as by hundreds of Santee Cooper, Alcoa, and Nucor employees, who were brought in on a chartered bus.[3] On December 6, a group of local physicians protested outside the DHEC office in Florence, demanding that DHEC test Pee Dee River residents for mercury poisoning before the permit is approved; on December 14, a DHEC spokesperson stated that DHEC had not yet decided whether to follow up on the physicians’ requests.[4]

On December 7, the U.S. Department of the Interior requested that the project be put on hold, pending an analysis of the damage that the plant would cause to the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. The DHEC extended the public comments period on the draft permit until January 22, 2008.[5]

Coastal Conservation League: Santee Cooper Coal Plant

In May 2008, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, one of the state's largest nonprofit environmental groups, announced plans to launch a $100,000 study of alternate options to the new plant.[6]

A public hearing on the plant permits took place on Thursday, October 23, 2008. Hundreds attended the meeting including a large number of Santee Cooper employees. Only one of the large group of proponents in attendance lived within a three mile radius of the plant.[7]

Santee Cooper's environmental impact study for the plant acknowledged that despite the utility's best efforts, some toxic materials will end up in the river. The plant will generate an enormous amount of fly ash, a waste byproduct of coal-fired power plants that contains concentrated amounts of mercury, arsenic, and other dangerous chemicals. The river already contains fish with mercury levels so elevated that the state warns residents against eating certain species.[8]

Opposition to the project

My Children Don't Want a Coal Plant

On February 11, 2009, Governor Mark Sanford came out against the proposed coal plant. In announcing his decision, the governor cited expectations of tougher environmental regulations, rising coal prices, and a weak economy. Sanford said the cost of the plant could double because of restrictions on mercury emissions and expected caps on carbon dioxide emissions.[9][10]

Despite Gov. Sanford's position, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control upheld the plant's air quality permit on Thursday, February 12.[11]

More than 100 residents of Florence County, SC brought an inflatable smokestack to the courthouse to protest the permit that was granted to Santee Cooper to build the plant. The facility would emit over 11 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, as well as 60 different toxic pollutants, including arsenic, dioxins, heavy metals, mercury, and selenium.[12]

In April 2009, the Coastal Conservation League released a report by Synapse Energy Economics that questioned Santee Cooper's decision to move forward with the plant's construction, in light of increasing construction costs and pending carbon emissions legislation. The study identified serious weaknesses and biases in Santee Cooper’s 2008 resource planning process, creating serious financial risk for ratepayers. The report concluded that the plan to build two large coal plants emerged from flawed planning analyses and was not a necessary course of action.[13]

On April 9, 2009, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups filed a Request for a Contested Case Rehearing in the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. The groups requested that the court remand the air permits back to the DHEC for review, arguing that the permits violate the Clean Air Act by allowing the plant to annually emit more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide and thousands of tons of toxins and particulates.[14]

Santee Cooper pulls the plug on Pee Dee ... for now

On August 21, 2009, Santee Cooper's chairman said the company might not need the new Pee Dee plant if five upstate South Carolina cooperatives instead buy power from rival Duke Energy. O.L. Thompson said the board would vote on whether to allow the cooperatives, which are currently supplied by Santee Cooper, to strike a deal with Duke. "If the economy stays like it's projected to stay, that might be enough to keep us out of Pee Dee," he said.[15]

On August 24, 2009, the board voted to suspend plans for the plant. As reasons for the cancellation, Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter cited a decrease in electricity demand related to the economic downturn and pending cap-and-trade legislation that could greatly increase the operating costs of coal-fired power plants.[16]

In 2011, Santee Cooper posted an ad in Power Engineering Magazine selling all the parts and design for the now-canceled coal plant, saying it was "Engineered, Procured and Ready to Construct." The for-sale plant also has a website.[17]

Project Details

Sponsor: Santee Cooper
Location: Kingsburg, Florence County, SC
Capacity: 1200 MW (two 600 MW units)
Type: Ultra-Supercritical
Projected in service: 2012
Status: Cancelled


Citizen Groups



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Santee Cooper, "Santee Cooper board approves new generating station in Florence County to meet state’s growing energy needs", Media Release, April 21, 2006.
  2. Santee Cooper Claims Green Future, but Still Wants Coal Plant, Charleston City Paper, October 31, 2007.
  3. Meeting Held On New Coal Plant, Charleston Post & Courier, November 9, 2007.
  4. Poison in the Pee Dee, Charleston City Paper, December 20, 2007.
  5. Public Input Period Extended for Proposed Pee Dee Coal-Fired Power Plant, Charleston Post & Courier, December 7, 2007.
  6. "Group to Explore Need for Coal Plant", The State, May 10, 2008.
  7. "Power plant advocates have their turn", SC Now, October 25, 2008
  8. "Utility's plan stirs coal-ash debate: Some say new Santee Cooper plant on Great Pee Dee River will bring toxic pollution despite safeguards," Post and Courier, October 28, 2008.
  9. Jim Davenport, "SC governor: Proposed power plant too expensive," Associated Press, February 11, 2009.
  10. "S. Carolina Gov. opposes $2 bln coal power plant," Reuters, February 11, 2009.
  11. Mike Fitts, "DHEC approves permit for coal-fired electric plant," Charleston Regional Business Journal, February 12, 2009.
  12. Jeff Biggers, "Takes a Village to Stop Razing Appalachia: Power Past Coal Fights Back," Power Past Coal, March 12, 2009.
  13. David Schlissel, Rachel Wilson, Lucy Johnston, and David White, An Assessment of Santee Cooper’s 2008 Resource Planning, Synapse Energy Economics, April 22, 2009 (PDF).
  14. "Stopping the Coal Rush", Sierra Club, accessed May 2009. (This is a Sierra Club list of new coal plant proposals.)
  15. "Pee Dee coal plant may be scuttled: Duke could bail out Santee Cooper," Sun News, August 22, 2009.
  16. Molly Parker, "Santee Cooper board suspends coal plant plans," Charleston Regional Business Journal, August 24, 2009.
  17. Heather Moyer, "For Sale: One Coal Plant – Priced to Move!" Sierra Club, March 25, 2011.

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