Asheville Plant

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Asheville Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Progress Energy near Arden, North Carolina. The plant is several miles east of the Nantahala National Forest, and about five miles south of Ashville, North Carolina.

Flyover description

In March 2010, pilot J. Henry Fair flew over the Asheville Plant and made the following observations:[1]

The Asheville coal plant is right next to the airport, which fortunately was not too busy. The lighting was pretty flat, with a good bit of snow on the ground. Amazingly, there were nice houses right under the ash ponds. The volume of crud in these things is staggering. If that earthen dyke bursts (there was nice steam coming off the water, which will someday perfectly illustrate a story on thermal pollution from power plants), that entire neighborhood will literally be buried by this poison-laden slurry.
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Plant Data

Cullasaja Falls in the Nantahala National Forest, west of the Asheville Plant.
  • Owner: Progress Energy Carolinas Inc.
  • Parent Company: Progress Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 414 MW
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 207 MW (1964), 207 MW (1971)
  • Location: 200 CP&L Dr., Arden, NC 28704
  • GPS Coordinates: 35.465556, -82.550278
  • Coal Consumption (2009): 949,209 short tons[2]
  • Coal Sources (2009)[3]

Demographics

According to census figures, there are 18,838 people living within a 3-mile radius of the Asheville Plant, and there are 1,954 people within a 1-mile radius. Within a 3-mile radius, the per-capita income is $23,353 and the racial composition of the population is 10.3% non-white.[4]

Air and Water Emissions

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 2,608,893 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 2,494 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 4,679 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 130 lb.

Coal Waste Sites

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Ashville Plant

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[5] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[6]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Ashville Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 14 $100,000,000
Heart attacks 20 $2,200,000
Asthma attacks 230 $12,000
Hospital admissions 10 $240,000
Chronic bronchitis 9 $3,800,000
Asthma ER visits 14 $5,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Asheville ranked 69th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste

WLOS: Coal Ash Dust near Progress Energy's Asheville coal plant

In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.[7] The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.[8]

Asheville Plant ranked number 69 on the list, with 411,793 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.[7]

"High Hazard" Surface Impoundments

Two of Asheville Plant's coal ash surface impoundments are on EPA's official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event.[9]

Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Asheville Plant waste site

The study "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash," released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011, reported that the level of hexavalent chromium, a highly potent cancer-causing chemical, at a coal ash site associated with the Asheville Plant was 83 parts per billion.[10] That level is 4,150 times as high as California's drinking water goal, and 66% above North Carolina's groundwater standard. In all, the study cited 29 sites in 17 states where hexavalent chromium contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash as well as from studies by EarthJustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club.[11][12][13][14] It included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In North Carolina, the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, the Asheville Plant in Arden and the Cape Fear Steam Plant in Montcure all were reported as having high levels of hexavalent chromium.[10]

A press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[15]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[10]

Legislative Issues

On May 27, 2008, North Carolina State Representative Pricey Harrison introduced House Bill H2709 into the North Carolina General Assembly. The bill seeks to outlaw the use of coal extracted from mountaintop removal mines from being burned in North Carolina coal fired power plants.[16]

On February 26, 2009, State Representative Pricey Harrison re-introduced the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act, along with 26 original co-signers, into the North Carolina State House. State Senator Steve Goss (D-45) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. [17]

On July 31, 2009, Governor Perdue signed Senate Bill 1004, which increases the safety oversight of coal ash ponds in North Carolina. The legislation requires that the dams enclosing coal ash ponds be inspected every two years by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. David Hoyle (D-Guilford) and Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford).[18]

Citizen Groups

Taking on the Coal Industry in North Carolina

Articles and Resources

Sources

  1. "North Carolina Coal Ash," OnEarth, March 12, 2010
  2. Energy Information Administration Form 923 for 2009
  3. Energy Information Administration Form 923 for 2009
  4. Coal plants near residential areas, SourceWatch
  5. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  6. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
  8. TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
  9. Coal waste
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  11. "Damage Case Report for Coal Compustion Wastes," August 2008
  12. U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
  13. EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
  14. EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
  15. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.
  16. HOUSE BILL 2709 - FIRST EDITION, GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA, MAY 28, 2008
  17. "Legislators introduce Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act", Appalachian Voices press release, February 26, 2009.
  18. "Perdue signs bill on stricter controls of coal ash ponds," Salisbury Post, July 31, 2009.

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