Local group lobbies against Duke Energy plant expansion

Rodgers: ‘At least I can sleep comfortably and say we tried’

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — Less than a fistful of members of Concerned Citizens of Richmond County gathered on the courthouse steps in downtown Rockingham late Thursday morning to “reject” the approved permit for the expansions at the Duke Energy Progress facility in Hamlet.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Hamlet resident Kim McCall, center, says the increased capacity at the Duke energy plant is a problem for everyone who likes to breathe clean air.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Hamlet resident Kim McCall, center, says the increased capacity at the Duke energy plant is a problem for everyone who likes to breathe clean air.

The sparsely attended press conference, organized by the local nonprofit and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, lasted 10 minutes and focused on permits approved in 2014 by the North Carolina Department Environment and Natural Resources, Division of Air Quality. The The Title V permit authorized the plant to more than quadruple its capacity to 8,760 hours annual from 2,000.

CCRC members have been vocal on the expanded permit, which they say increases the level of toxins emitted into the air and the potential for associated health risks.

Kim McCall, CCRC secretary who lives on Waymon Chapel Road near the Hamlet plant, said in the year since the permit was approved the level of smoke and loud noises have increased — and that’s not all.

On June 16, 2014, McCall said a smell permeated her home.

“It was so thick with smoke,” McCall said, “and it had a metallic taste. This is not fog. This is really, really serious.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Kim McCall shows a photo of what she says shows the smoke from the Duke Energy plant on June 26, 2014.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Kim McCall shows a photo of what she says shows the smoke from the Duke Energy plant on June 26, 2014.

Duke Energy officials, meanwhile, have downplayed the importance of the permitted expansion. A spokesperson has said that it’s unlikely the plant would operate at capacity — perhaps temporarily, at peak times when utility customers’ use of air-conditioning strain the system.

In addition, Duke Energy has emphasized that natural gas is a cleaner and more affordable energy source than coal or fuel oil.

McCall, a Richmond County native who returned to the area after serving in the military, said this is a personal battle for her.

Pastor Cary Rodgers, community organizers for the Blue Ridge organization, said his group has filed a lawsuit against the state and Duke Energy. He’s hopeful the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will step in. Rodgers said the state ignored several of the EPA’s recommendations for the Hamlet plant’s permit.

“They can revoke it,” Rodgers said. “Its not in stone.”

Rodgers seemed to realize it was an uphill battle. His efforts to bend the ear of local officials have proven unsuccessful. Social media hasn’t helped much either — the page-specific effort to “Stop the Expansion at Richmond County Turbines” has attracted fewer than 100 followers since October 2013.

“At least I can sleep comfortably and say we tried,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said some people feel that since the plant is already there and in operation, there’s nothing they can do.

Filed in: Business, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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  • don

    What credentials does this group have? Truth is our air and water is the cleanest it has been in 75 years. If this group has ideas for alternative energy at at reasonable cost lets hear it, I bet they do not!

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