SC governor criticized for remarks about EPA rules, called ‘misinformed’

sfretwell@thestate.comJune 6, 2014 

State of State

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

RAINIER EHRHARDT — AP

— Conservationists took aim Friday at S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley for questioning new carbon dioxide regulations that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says will help in the fight against climate change, a phenomenon that is contributing to weather extremes and rising sea levels.

In a news release, the Conservation Voters of South Carolina said Haley “appears to have been misinformed” about the state’s ability to comply with the proposed EPA rules, which are intended to reduce carbon dioxide pollution from the nation’s coal-fired power plants by about 30 percent.

“It appears that she has been given incorrect information about South Carolina’s ability to meet carbon pollution standards,” the group said, responding to comments the governor made earlier this week on the coast.

The Conservation Voters group has endorsed Democrat Vincent Sheheen for governor over Republican Haley.

After a meeting of state electric cooperatives, Haley said, “We are seeing once again D.C. sending us backwards. We are recruiting international companies every day. One of the things they focus on are utility rates. When you see these mandates on utility companies like this, it’s not only hurting the state, it’s hurting the country.”

In response to questions about the carbon rules, Haley said, “This is the time we need D.C. to step back. Let us allow the economy to improve. Let us allow businesses to do what they want. So many of our companies are green friendly anyway. They are constantly trying to come up with new things. We don’t need more mandates to keep jobs away.”

Haley’s remarks follow comments earlier in the week from the state-owned Santee Cooper power company, the state’s electric cooperatives and Attorney General Alan Wilson. All expressed concern that the rules were too tough on South Carolina and could increase electricity rates for customers.

Efforts to reach Haley’s office and campaign office for comment Friday were unsuccessful.

Nationally, the government is proposing a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide pollution from power plants during the next 20 years. The plan is to cut the greenhouse gas to levels below the amount released in 2005 in an effort to fight climate change.

The rule, however, contains different reduction targets for different states. South Carolina is looking at a 51 percent cut in the rate at which power plants release carbon dioxide. But the Conservation Voters and other environmental groups say the 51 percent reduction required of South Carolina power plants is misleading.

The addition of two nuclear plants in Fairfield County should shave the net percent cut to 28 percent, said Hamilton Davis, energy policy director at the S.C. Coastal Conservation League.

South Carolina also can make further improvements through energy efficiency programs and increases in solar energy, both of which would reduce the demand for coal-generated electricity, he said. South Carolina has closed several coal plants that may not have been factored into the 51 percent, Davis said. The state already has cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 30 percent since 2005, according to the Conservation Voters and the S.C. Coastal Conservation League.

Environmental groups have applauded the rules as a way to fight climate change, which is predicted to cause an array of problems in coming years. A recent national report said some of the climate change impacts already are happening.

One of the issues of concern in South Carolina is sea-level rise because so many buildings have been constructed close to the ocean in a state with an extensive beach tourism industry. The Debordieu community in Georgetown County has little beach on its southern end because of erosion and waves are smacking a seawall daily. Legislators stepped in this past week to help homeowners.

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