Duke to press for emissions cap

Duke to press for emissions cap

Duke Energy Corp. is seeking a federal cap on carbon-dioxide emissions at the same time the company is pushing for state approval to build two coal plants at its Cliffside facility in North Carolina.

Ten major companies, including Charlotte-based Duke (NYSE:DUK), are partnering with environmental groups to call for a nationwide limit on carbon-dioxide emissions that would lead to reductions of 10 to 30 percent over the next 15 years, according to The New York Times.

The diversity of the coalition — which includes General Electric Co. (NYSE:GE), Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH), California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (NYSE:PCG) — could mean businesses want to get ahead of the political momentum for federal-emissions controls to ensure their interests are protected, the newspaper reports.

Many energy producers and manufacturers have expressed concern that various state efforts, if not coordinated, could lead to a scattershot system of regulation, the newspaper reports. Others worry that harsher measures, such as a stiff tax on fossil fuels, the biggest contributor to global-warming gases, could be imposed if states do not reach a consensus on a legislative approach.

The negotiations, conducted primarily by the companies’ chief executives, have provided a set of suggested principles as a guide to any legislation.

The group, called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, will publish its recommendations Monday, the day before President Bush delivers the State of the Union address and offers the administration’s proposal to promote energy security and combat global warming.

Representatives of Duke have been in Raleigh this week for the N.C. Utilities Commission’s hearings on the proposed coal plants at Cliffside, which is on the Cleveland-Rutherford county border.

In testimony Friday afternoon, Duke Chief Executive Jim Rogers noted the proposed new plants will replace aging facilities that are less environmentally friendly.

“Cliffside is central to our plan to burn less coal by 2012 to produce more power with a small environmental footprint,” he testified.

Opponents of the project are calling for cleaner alternative-energy sources or conservation to avoid additional carbon-dioxide pollution.

Earlier Friday, commission members asked Duke why they should approve its proposed coal units before getting answers about possible conservation programs or more environmentally sound plants.

Duke’s planning executive, Janice Hager, defended Duke’s Cliffside request during a long cross examination. She said the company has done its best to estimate how much energy might be saved through conservation and renewable energy sources. She said Duke also has serious questions about the feasibility and costs of coal gasification, a cleaner energy technology, for North Carolina.

Commissioner Lorinzo Joyner expressed frustration that Duke couldn’t give the commission more specific answers on energy-conservation programs it might propose and how much energy they might save. Hager said Duke intends to have proposals ready by September.

Rogers testified that the proposals will be aggressive.

But, in her exchange with Hager, Joyner noted Duke has delayed its proposals until it completes a planned study. “I really don’t see much aggression here,” Joyner said.

Commissioner James Kerr asked Hager why the commission could not approve a smaller gas-powered plant to buy time to get some of the answers Duke says aren’t available now.

Hager answered that Duke’s best judgment is that the Cliffside plant will prove necessary and that delaying the decision would make the project significantly more expensive.

The commission initially held hearings last summer on the plan to build two 800-megawatt pulverized-coal units. At Duke’s request, the hearings were reopened following the company’s disclosure that the project would likely cost $3 billion, instead of $2 billion, as originally estimated.

Source: phoenix.bizjournals.com

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