SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
National Drive Electric Week (NDEW) celebrated its fifth year September 12-20. More than 30+ events were held across the Southeast to highlight the clean-air benefits, cost-savings, and pure driving joy of electric cars (EVs). EV owners gathered, displayed their cars and shared their EV experiences through celebrations, scavenger hunts, parades and other fun activities.
In Georgia, hundreds of Atlanta area electric vehicle (EV) drivers and enthusiasts participated in a social and ride-and-drive event on Saturday, September 12, 2015 at Atlantic Station. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy was pleased to co-captain this year’s event along with captains, sponsors and/or partners including EV Club of the South, Georgia Power, Nissan, Clean Cities Georgia and others.
Georgia has been a clear leader on EVs. Due to a generous tax credit for many years, GA is ranked #2 in the country for EV sales. While the state tax credit is no longer available, the benefits of EVs remain. They are affordable, quiet and really fun to drive. Not only that, but they are offering drivers a cleaner choice, helping drivers save money, reducing oil use, and cutting heat-trapping emissions. In the U.S, we send more than $1 billion overseas a year for fuel and we burn roughly 121 billion gallons of oil in our passenger cars and trucks EACH YEAR. Switching to an EV is one of the biggest ways that you can cut this consumption, reduce pollution and keep money in our local economics.
With several Nissan LEAF drivers on our staff, we can all attest to the joy of skipping trips to the gas station, much lower cost of ownership, and no tailpipe emissions, but nothing beats getting behind the wheel of the vehicle yourself. NDEW provides a fun opportunity to experience this technology firsthand. Combined with renewable energy, like solar on your home, the benefits of EVs are unquestionable.
NDEW is nationally presented by Plug-In America, Sierra Club, and the Electric Auto Association, with support from local groups at each event. SACE staff also had the opportunity to check out events in Colorado, another leading state for EVs and check out how they are driving interest in EVs, including their generous tax credit and its budding market for used EVs.
Miss an event? There are many resources online that can help guide you — including information on available cars, incentives and costs. To check out more on National Drive Electric Week using, search #NDEW2015 on Twitter. For more on the Atlanta event, check out this video.
On September 30, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the long-awaited Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines (ELG rule) which provide the first-ever national pollution limits to control toxic, liquid discharges from power plants into rivers and waterways across the US. SACE has advocated for standards like these since the Kingston coal ash disaster occurred in December 2008.
Every day, power plants across the country are using our public waters like an open sewer. Power plants dump 5.5 billion pounds of contaminated wastewater directly into US rivers, lakes, and bays every single year—that’s more toxic waste than the next nine most polluting industries combined.
One of the primary sources of power plant pollution is wastewater from coal ash—the toxic byproduct from burning coal to fuel power plants. Coal ash is often stored wet in huge, unlined impoundments (sometimes referred to as “ponds” or “pits”) next to our rivers and waterways. It contains arsenic, mercury, and lead and poses serious risks to human health and the health of the environment.
The good news is that the new ELG rule will, for the first time, require dry handling of most coal ash so it’s no longer added to these pits. While utilities will have years to meet these new requirements, the ultimate result will be a huge reduction in toxic pollution coming from power plants. The ELG rule and EPA’s coal ash rule are already forcing utilities like Alabama Power, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Georgia Power to finally start addressing their outdated storage and handling of coal ash.
SACE and our members played an important role ensuring a strong ELG rule that offers real protections for southeastern communities and waterways. This summer, SACE led a delegation of Riverkeepers from the Southeast to urge the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) not to weaken the proposed ELG rule during its review (OMB serves the President and reviews federal regulation for potential economic impacts). SACE members also called on the EPA and the Obama Administration to move forward with the most protective rule possible.
The Clean Water Act required EPA to update these standards. States will now have to reflect the standards’ new limits on pollution in the wastewater discharge permits coal plants must maintain and periodically renew. As the rule is implemented over the next several years, public pressure and advocacy will be critical to ensure that our waterways and communities are protected from toxic power plant pollution.
After a multi-year process of identifying where offshore wind farms might be developed off the coast of North Carolina, federal regulators have concluded that initial activities involved with site studies will have negligible environmental impacts.
These findings are revealed in the revised environmental assessment (EA) released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in late September. SACE supports well-planned offshore wind energy development and submitted comments back in February for this EA process and spoke at public hearings
The EA carries a “Finding of No Significant Impact,” for the actions of issuing leases for offshore wind energy areas to development companies. The actions also include companies carrying out site assessment activities, such as deploying buoys or towers to collect meteorological data. The EA does not deal with potential impacts from the actual construction or operation of wind farms on these sites. Those potential effects would be assessed later, when the company that buys the site leases submits a Construction and Operations plan for approval. This would be years down the road, though, considering that they will want to collect a significant amount of data onsite before committing to the construction of a wind farm.
The next steps for offshore wind in NC will be the issuance of a Proposed Sale Notice this fall, which will kick off a 60-day comment period on future issuance of leases in the sites identified for potential wind development.
SACE has been deeply engaged in the regulatory process to responsibly open the best possible sites for offshore wind farms since the process began in North Carolina and welcomes this announcement as a step forward to harnessing the massive potential of clean, renewable energy off our coast.
An overflow crowd of more than 300 coastal South Carolinian citizens gathered at Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant on the evening of September 15 to stand up to protect the coast from offshore drilling. The event served as the official launch of a new grassroots citizens group, called Don’t Drill SC-Lowcountry, a citizen-led non-partisan grassroots movement to protect South Carolina’s spectacular coastline from offshore drilling. SACE is proud to be a supporting member of this coalition.
The group’s launch comes on the heels of the launch of a similar citizens group in the Grand Strand of South Carolina, called SODA (Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic), which has revealed massive opposition to offshore drilling from citizens and businesses from Georgetown, SC to North Myrtle Beach, SC.
Taking a cue from citizens, the local governments elected to represent them have been turning out in force to oppose offshore drilling. South Carolina now has 22 local governments that have formally opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic blasting, representing the entire coastline, from Hilton Head Island to North Myrtle Beach, while North Carolina has 24 and Georgia has 4 and Florida has 17. In total, more than 75 local governments up and down the east coast have taken a position opposing offshore drilling and/or seismic blasting, with the bulk in the Southeast.
Increasingly, Republican lawmakers have been sounding the alarm as well. The Patriot’s Point event featured comments from Republican Congressman and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford and Republican State Senator Chip Campsen, from Isle of Palms, opposing Atlantic offshore drilling. The message they imparted was clear–the conservative thing to do is to listen to voice of the local communities and not let Washington D.C. force offshore drilling upon us. Senator Campsen remarked that there’s nothing liberal about stewarding our incredible God-given environment so that future generations can enjoy it as past generations already have.
While intense opposition is mounting to offshore drilling, citizens are increasingly looking for clean energy alternatives. Just last month, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management unveiled draft areas for offshore wind off of South Carolina’s coast and announced plans to offer leases for offshore wind development offshore North Carolina. Offshore wind would offer opportunities to take advantage of offshore energy resources responsibly, unlike risky offshore drilling.
The case keeps building that offshore drilling is no good for the Atlantic states, and we continue to call on Governors Haley and McCrory to request removal of the South Atlantic waters from consideration for offshore drilling. Sign the petition to Governor Haley here and the petition to Governor McCrory here.