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Santee Cooper drops coal plant plans

PINOPOLIS - Santee Cooper will not pursue construction of a controversial coal-fired power plant that has drawn intense opposition from environmentalists over the amount of mercury and greenhouse gas pollution the facility would release.

The board of directors of the state-owned utility voted unanimously today to suspend an effort to secure state permits for the $2.2 billion plant in Florence County along the Great Pee Dee River. The board’s vote followed a similar vote this morning during a board committee meeting.

The agency’s action makes it unlikely the plant will ever be built, said Santee Cooper board chairman O.L. Thompson.

Committee members and Santee Cooper staff said the down economy, looming federal regulation of carbon and a potential agreement with another power company made it possible to forgo building the power plant.

The board voted to let a representative of five Upstate electric cooperatives buy power from another utility, Duke Energy. The cooperatives would purchase about 1,000 megawatts over about seven years, thus reducing the load Santee Cooper would have to provide - and reducing the need for the coal plant near the communities of Pamplico and Kingsburg.

Duke Energy’s board is to take up the sale of energy to the five Upstate electric cooperatives on Tuesday.

Today’s meeting, at the utility’s scenic Wampee conference center on Lake Moultrie, was attended by representatives of most major environmental groups in South Carolina, as well as by Central Electric Cooperative, which represents the state’s 20 cooperatives.

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