South Carolina Environmental Law Project

Lawyers for the Wild Side of South Carolina

Sierra Club files lawsuit over expired permits at 3 South Carolina coal plants
July 10th, 2020

By Daniella DeRobbio, WCIV

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) — The Sierra Club announced on Friday it filed a lawsuit in circuit court for state regulators to protect South Carolina’s communities and waterways from mercury, arsenic and other pollutants by updating long-expired permits at three coal-burning power plants.

According to the Sierra Club, "South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has failed in its obligation to protect the water quality and health of families living near the Cross, Winyah and Wateree coal plants, all of which are located in predominantly Black and low-income communities."

The lawsuit also claims that the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits had expired almost ten years ago at all three of its sites.

The Sierra Club says it filed a suit "to force DHEC to take action on these long-expired permits." It claims three coal plants have been releasing "dangerous amounts" of toxic pollution that can" poison drinking water, make swimming and fishing unsafe, damage children's developmental health, and cause cancer."

The club adds that Black South Carolina residents who live near the sites are prone to health threats.

“The people responsible for making sure our communities are safe and our water is clean have failed us,”said Xavier Boatright, an organizing representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, who lives near the Cross coal plant. “Black people, people of color and low-income South Carolinians shouldn’t have to beg for basic environmental and health protections that are rightfully ours.”

“DHEC has caused serious harm to the health of South Carolinians by allowing these dirty, outdated coal plants to discharge even more toxic pollution into our waterways,” said Will Harlan, senior representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in the Carolinas. “State regulators must put permit protections in place immediately, and Dominion Energy and Santee Cooper must start moving completely away from dirty, damaging fossil fuels and toward the clean, safe, affordable energy communities demand and deserve.”

SCELP staff attorney Leslie Lenhardt added, “We have expended our best efforts to move the needle on these permits, but DHEC steadfastly refuses to act. We have no other option at this point but to seek a judicial order requiring them to make a decision on these languishing applications.”

ABC News 4 has reached out to DHEC for comment.

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