Spotlight Shines on Extreme Energy Burdens in Memphis

ACEEE Presenting at Memphis City Council Memphis Light Gas and Water Subcommittee Meeting (Ariel Drehobl, ACEEE, seated (table) far left; Angela Garrone, SACE, seated (back wall) far left)

This past week, national experts from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) traveled from Washington, D.C. to Memphis, TN to help shine a spotlight on the extreme energy burdens many Memphians are struggling under on a daily basis. As previously reported in a SACE blog, ACEEE identified Memphis as the most energy burdened major metropolitan area in our country in its “Lifting the High Energy Burden in America’s Largest Cities: How Energy Efficiency Can Help Improve Low-Income and Underserved Communities.”

Ariel Drehobl, primary author of the ACEEE report, spent two days in Memphis meeting with city leaders, city agencies, community advocates and local power company staff discussing the report’s findings and how best to help ease costs for Memphis’ most vulnerable citizens. Ms. Drehobl presented findings of the report to the City Council Memphis Light Gas and Water (MLGW) subcommittee, where City Council members asked what residents could do in the near-term to help lower electricity bills, among other questions. (Local media coverage of ACEEE’s City Council presentation can be found here – Memphis tops nation with greatest energy burden among low-income residents and Some Memphians pay double the national average on utilities.)

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FPL’s Flawed Remediation Plan Won’t Solve Turkey Point’s Pollution Problems

Last week Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon Society filed an amended complaint to the Clean Water Act challenge filed this past July to officially add Friends of the Everglades and update the complaint with some of the new data and science that has now been collected and analyzed. You may be asking yourself what our additional concerns could possibly be because isn’t FPL extracting the pollution plume and fixing the problems?

Certainly recent news reports including statements from Florida Power and Light (FPL) makes one think everything at Turkey Point is under control and that the measures being put in place will solve the contamination problems in Biscayne Bay. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Turkey Point Sampling Sites. Source: Water Science Associates

There is a clear connection between Turkey Point’s leaking cooling canal system and Biscayne Bay. The elevated nutrient and tritium levels found in deep areas within Biscayne Bay are indicative of water that originated within or beneath the leaking cooling canal system (CCS) and demonstrate a hydraulic connection between the CCS and the Bay. Limestone bedrock immediately underlying the canal system (see map to the right) and Biscayne Bay consists of highly porous and permeable limestone that provides a direct connection of the groundwater to the surface water environment of Biscayne Bay. This allows for the movement of contaminated water from within and beneath the CCS to Biscayne Bay every low tide and especially during heavy rain events.

FPL’s proposed remediation plan is costly and won’t stop the continued pollution of Biscayne Bay. FPL has proposed a minimum 10-year remedial action plan costing $50 million dollars for just this year to clean up only the legacy plume. To our knowledge, the Water Quality violations within Biscayne Bay adjacent to the CCS and the backfilling and restoration project do not yet have a cost estimate. The plan consists primarily of backfilling only two manmade excavations at the Barge Basin Canal (sites TPBBSW-6 & TPBBSW-8) and the Turtle Point Canal (site TPBBSW-7), which clearly showed violations of phosphorous and other contaminants.

While backfilling of deep excavations at these two sites will likely reduce the direct flow of contaminated groundwater into Biscayne Bay at those locations, the overall remediation plan does not address the full potential for continued contamination of Biscayne Bay by the open industrial sewer that is the canal system. Only two of many potential pathways for pollution migration are being addressed. For example, sampling at sites TPBBSW-1 through TPBBSW-5 also showed violations of various contaminants without deep excavations being present. In addition, numerous natural underground connections exist within the Biscayne Aquifer and recent sampling from identified deep seeps indicate a groundwater connection to surface water especially during low tide and high rain events.

An accurate model would show that FPL’s proposed cleanup plan would negatively impact nearby wetlands and Everglades Restoration efforts. If FPL or one of our state agency’s responsible for protecting water resources of the state corrected this model and accounted for the technical problems that experts identified, the net result would be less water available than FPL is claiming, so therefore a greater impact to adjacent wetlands and the progress of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Less water available for delivery to restoration projects is problematic as they are responsible for rehydrating estuaries across the southeast end of Florida that are thirsty for clean fresh water. The only way to retract the plume safely would be to slow the operations and pumps to protect the wetlands and water resources. FPL would not be in compliance with DEP’s Consent Order to halt the plume within 3 years and fully retract it within 10 years. Click here for more information on Model Flaws. Clean up would in fact take a lot longer, and the sheer volume of water FPL plans to pump into the deep aquifer has never been done before, among other concerns.

Given the inaccuracies associated with the FPL model used to develop the proposed remedial actions and given the limitations of only addressing two possible hydraulic connections between the leaking cooling canals and Biscayne Bay within a highly permeable groundwater matrix, the proposed remedial actions by FPL will not stop the continued flow of contaminated water from the CCS to the surrounding groundwater system and the surface waters of Biscayne Bay. So isn’t it wiser to spend the money on something that will work?

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Building a Resilient Energy Plan. Step One: Diverse Community Engagement

Photo courtesy of MountainTrue

This post is the first in a series of blogs that will follow the efforts of Western North Carolina’s Energy Innovation Task Force to reduce peak load in the region through demand response, energy efficiency and clean energy solutions. SACE participates in the Task Force’s Peak Reduction and Programs working groups.

Asheville, North Carolina is no stranger to sustainability. Nestled in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the City was one of the first in North Carolina to adopt a Sustainability Management Plan in 2009, which established a municipal carbon reduction goal of 4 percent each year. In 2013, the City implemented an LED streetlight replacement program, replacing over 9,000 aging streetlights with a more efficient LED version, and has experienced a 28.6% reduction in its municipal carbon footprint since 2008.

So it should be no surprise that the City and surrounding region is one of the first in the state to partner up with a diverse set of stakeholders to develop a strategic plan to safely, cleanly and reliably meet the area’s energy needs and reduce its carbon footprint. But there’s an even larger environmental incentive in the City’s most recent collaborative effort. The community is working together to avoid the need to construct a new 186 megawatt (MW) natural gas generation plant in 2023 to meet the utility’s forecasted growth in demand. Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Solar In The Southeast, Fall Update

SACE Staffer Alissa Jean Schafer contributed to this post.

When it comes to deploying solar power, the Southeastern United States has been a mixed bag for quite some time. Thanks to weak or non-existent policies, inconsistent incentives, and a myriad of other excuses, the Southeast, as a whole, has yet to live up to its high solar potential. The last several months have brought some interesting developments though, some good and some challenging. Here’s a quick overview of the key takeaways, from North to South.

Tennessee: “Middle of the pack” is a good way to describe this state, which has only about 140 MW of solar currently installed for its 7 million residents, but the potential for much more. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has about 200 MW of additional solar in the “development pipeline” and seems to be actively looking into the best way to increase its renewable resources even more, including solar. In May of 2016, TVA issued a Request for Information to get a read on opportunities for adding renewables to its portfolio and was blown away by offered responses totaling over 11,000 MW, about 40% coming from solar. The idea is that these projects would be operational by December 2020. While TVA has not committed to contract for any of these projects and it’s unlikely that the agency will get anywhere near the 11,000 MW mark by the end of 2020, its Request for Information is an optimistic sign and many are watching to see if and how projects are implemented. TVA’s 2015 Integrated Resource Plan recommends procuring only up to 800 MW of solar by 2023, but demand for renewable energy and plummeting prices may catalyze the agency to beat that conservative number.

North Carolina: In the news for being second nationwide for solar power on the grid, North Carolina continued its streak of being a “solar star” in the Southeast. The state added 115 MW of solar power to the grid during the second quarter of 2016 alone, bringing its total to 1.9 GW of installed solar for its 10 million residents. Due in part to North Carolina’s ban on third-party power sales, the majority of this solar is utility scale. Some concerns have been raised over a projected slowing of this momentum, due to “grid logistics,” declining project economics, and a perceived lack of land availability near substations, where it makes most sense for large solar farms to be sited. Duke recently set a new testing requirement for utility scale projects that effectively sets an arbitrary and unreasonable limit on the amount of solar capacity that can be delivered to each substation.  And certain substation upgrade tax breaks are set to expire soon, which may negatively impact the economics of solar projects. There is also some anti-solar legislation currently pending that would add more permitting hurdles and further slow the solar development that we have seen over the last couple of years.

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guest Post: Another Duke Energy coal ash spill discovered into the Neuse River

This is a guest post from Waterkeepers Alliance. To read their original press release on the breaking story, click here.

By: Pete Harrison, Waterkeeper Alliance & Matt Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper / Sound Rivers

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers have discovered a large coal ash spill into the Neuse River from the Duke Energy H.F. Lee facility, 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro, NC. A substantial but undetermined amount of coal ash was found floating on the surface of the river in a layer over one inch thick. See video here.

The spill came from at least one of three inactive coal ash ponds containing more than one million tons of exposed coal ash. The ponds had been submerged by Hurricane Matthew flood waters for more than seven days until flood waters receded over the weekend. Fly ash coated tree branches as much as seven feet above the river surface, indicating the spill began no later than last Tuesday, when the water level reached a record flood stage.

Independent microscopic analysis confirmed the white material is fly ash particles known as cenospheres, a waste product of coal combustion.

Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, said, “This spill is easily visible to anyone in a boat. The area looks like a winter wonderland of toxic coal ash as it has coated the water and trees. It is hard for me to understand how both Duke Energy and state regulators failed to notice such a large area of coal ash contaminating the Neuse River when they claim to have inspected these very ash ponds on Saturday.”

Read more…

Tags: , , , , ,

Question and Answer: An improved tool for watchdogging coal ash in the Southeast

This is a guest post originally reported on by Southeast Energy News. Click here to read the original article. For info about an upcoming webinar on, go here.

Coal ash waste is an issue of particular concern in the Southeast, which is where the majority of coal ash impoundments are located and has been the site of high-profile spills in recent years.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) created its informational website in late 2012 as a resource to those wishing to learn more about the topic. Since then, the coal-ash issue’s landscape has changed many times over thanks to the 2014 Dan River spill, but especially because both the federal and state regulatory landscapes have changed. The site has been updated to include more prominent mapping of coal ash sites across the Southeast along with tracking industry’s responses to deadlines established by EPA’s coal ash rule and state rules.

To learn more about’s relaunch, and the goals SACE has for that platform, Southeast Energy News spoke with Amelia Shenstone, Campaigns Director, and Adam Reaves, High-risk Energy Coordinator.

Southeast Energy News: What prompted SACE to update

Reaves: We’re constantly trying to make this site more useful for the public. We’ve made everything mobile- and tablet-friendly so people can browse and find information from any type of media device, and we’ve made the mapping feature more prominent, too.

Read more…

Tags: , , , , , ,

BREAKING NEWS: Waterkeeper Alliance and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Respond to Duke Energy Cooling Pond Dam Breach of Quaker Neck Lake in Flooding Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew

Lee cooling pond inundated with water on the Neuse river, Photo credit: Rick Dove, Waterkeeper Alliance Oct 10, 2016

The following press release is from Waterkeeper Alliance. See the original here.

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA — Today, Waterkeeper Alliance and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper are responding to and documenting the breach of a 1.2-billion-gallon cooling pond dam at Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant. The breach occurred just minutes after Duke Energy issued a statement claiming that the “Ash basin and cooling pond dams across the state continue to operate safely; in fact, we’ve been pleased with their good performance during the historic flooding Hurricane Matthew brought to eastern North Carolina.”

Pete Harrison, Staff Attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance and Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, released the following statement in response to the incident:

“When families are being threatened by some of the worst flooding in North Carolina’s history, they should not also have to worry about Duke Energy’s dams collapsing.

“This failure likely happened because the river has begun to recede, which is when structural problems often develop. Like so many of Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds across the state, the cooling pond at Lee has a long history of structural problems – these are disasters waiting to happen.

“Minutes before the dam collapsed on the cooling pond, Duke Energy issued a statement declaring it was operating safely. Duke continues to claim the dam of a 120-acre coal ash pond at Lee is operating safely, even though the river has only begun to recede. The same ash pond suffered extensive damage after flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. We remain very concerned about the integrity of the ash pond dams at Lee as the river recedes over the next week.

“It has been more than two years since the Dan River disaster, and Duke’s coal ash continues to sit behind rickety dams on the banks of flood-prone rivers all across the state. Three ash ponds at the Lee plant, totalling 160 acres, have been completely submerged since Sunday.”

Waterkeeper Alliance and North Carolina Riverkeepers are conducting aerial patrols of the site today.  Photos and videos will be uploaded to the organizations’ Flickr page later today.

 Waterkeeper Alliance continues to activate its Rapid Response protocol with 13 North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations as they work to document  the potentially devastating impacts of flooded coal ash ponds, factory swine, and poultry facilities on the state’s waterways in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Public window into Florida utility planning opens, shuts

While Floridians await a Public Service Commission (PSC) ruling later this year on a 24% rate hike for Florida Power & Light, the Commission is also considering another matter: acceptance of Ten Year Site Plans from the largest state utilities. The Ten Year Site Plan is a summary of Florida’s largest power companies’ resource plans for the next ten years.

This year’s Site Plans rely on continuing to run old coal plants and building more natural gas fired power. Collectively, they add roughly as much solar energy during the next ten years as neighboring Georgia Power will have by the end of this year; renewables, by 2025, will represent only 2% of the state’s capacity (download a summary).

Fortunately for those still recovering from two weeks of FPL rate hearings that frequently lasted late into the night, but unfortunately for power customers who deserve the PSC’s due diligence to ensure electric service at the least cost, the TYSP public review process is a stunningly brief 2-hour “workshop.” Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where the 2016 Candidates Stand on Energy Issues: NC Attorney General Roy Cooper

This post is the final in a series of blogs examining where 2016 candidates for President or Governor of North Carolina stand on key energy issues.  Note: The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Links to reports, candidate websites and outside sources are provided as citizen education tools. SACE’s Jennifer Weiss and Adam Reaves contributed to this blog.

North Carolina has a reputation of being a leader in clean energy throughout the Southeast thanks to several forward-thinking policies, such as the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) that was signed into law in 2007. North Carolina is still the only Southeastern state to have this type of policy, which requires utilities to generate a portion of their electricity from clean, renewable sources. Despite attempts by opponents to repeal the law in recent years, REPS has been a driving force behind NC’s $7 billion clean energy industry and its 26,000+ jobs without significantly affecting costs to consumers.

Leadership from a state’s governor is critical to setting the tone for energy policies, and this blog series aims to inform voters on the policy stances regarding energy and climate issues that face North Carolina. We encourage North Carolina voters to tune into the final debate between Governor Pat McCrory and Attorney General Roy Cooper tonight (Oct. 11) at 7 p.m. ET. Go here for more info on this debate.

First we evaluated current North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who is running for re-election this November.  In today’s blog, we examine the policies and positions of his opponent, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. Since 2000, Mr. Cooper has served as State Attorney General for North Carolina, and before that he served in both the North Carolina State House and State Senate as well as in private law practice.

Cooper and Climate Change

In his role as Attorney General, Mr. Cooper advised against joining a challenge to the federal Clean Power Plan, which directs states to develop plans to decrease carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation. Cooper noted that challenging the plan “will risk North Carolina’s well-deserved reputation for protecting the quality of our air, recruiting businesses that produce cutting-edge technologies and offering leadership around the world on energy issue.” Read more…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Record Number of Cities Celebrate Sixth Annual National Drive Electric Week

This is a guest post taken from a press release by Plug In America, one of the national sponsors of National Drive Electric Week. To view the original release, click here. Photos originally published here. Sarah Gilliam, SACE’s Communications Coordinator wrote the summary.

Racecar driver and EV-owner Leilani Munter gave a speech urging for increased availability of electric vehicles in North Carolina. Event held in Asheville, NC.

This year’s sixth annual National Drive Electric Week, held September 10-18, was the biggest National Drive Electric week yet with 235 events in 212 cities, seven countries, and 46 U.S. states. It could be called the year’s largest U.S. clean energy mass mobilization – it  included ride and drives, city proclamations, street fairs, electric vehicle parades and other activities. More than 120,000 people joined in the celebration to learn more about electric vehicles (EVs) and it is reported that 7,368 test rides were completed at the events. That’s a lot of new people getting the opportunity to experience the benefits of EVs for themselves.

Palo Alto mayor Pat Burt, Assemblymember Rich Gordon, and EVangelist Sven Thesen "cut the gasoline cord" in front of Assemblymember Gordon's Tesla S.

“With more chargers in the ground and EVs on the road than ever before, it’s clear we’re driving forward, not backward. Clean transportation is here, and it’s here to stay,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, the Sierra Club’s Electric Vehicles Initiative director. “As more than half a million electric vehicles drive along U.S. roadways and public officials and everyday citizens flock to National Drive Electric Week events, this year’s exciting events show that American drivers are ready to make the switch from dirty gasoline to clean energy solutions like electric vehicles.”

National Drive Electric Week is based on the idea that nothing beats learning the ropes from existing owners and ride-and-drives in clean, quiet and powerful plug-in vehicles for converting gasoline-car drivers to EV owners. The event showcases the fun, cost-saving, and clean-air benefits of plug-in electric vehicles. For the sixth year in a row, Plug In America, the Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association teamed up with local groups to organize events, which featured all-electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars.

Read more…

Tags: , , ,