Last updated: December 18. 2013 7:08AM
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Matt Harrelson

Staff Writer

HAMLET — Duke Energy Progress is officially on notice.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League held a lightly attended meeting Tuesday night at Church of God of Prophecy in Hamlet to express concerns with local residents about Duke Energy’s Hamlet operations. The branch is seeking a permit to allow the plant to emit higher levels of air pollutions which in turn would allow the plant to operate to its full capacity.

The Glendale Springs-based league doesn’t want to see that happen and urged the public to get involved in spreading the word about the addition of combustion turbines on Airport Road in Hamlet.

Pastor Cary Rodgers, the Environmental Justice Community Organizer, presented a slideshow illustrating the effects of what would happen if Duke Energy Progress built additional turbines. The air would become 36 percent more toxic and would spread benzene, a cancer causing chemical, into the air for up to six miles from the plant.

“We have our air and water in common,” Rodgers said. “We all have to breath the same air and drink the same water.”

However, Lisa Hoffman, of Duke Energy Progress media relations, indicated through an email sent to The Daily Journal that Duke is not adding any combines.

“There are two air quality permit applications filed for Smith (Energy Complex),” Hoffman said. “One is the Part II Title V permit for the combined cycle power block, which amends our construction permit into an operational permit. The other allow for greater use of the simple cycle combustion turbines if dictated by demand and low natural gas prices.”

But Lou Zeller, executive director of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, doesn’t see it that way. He believes that Duke Energy is playing a sort of “shell game” by hiding information or simply by just not presenting it.

“When these permits are applied for, the state bases the permits off of info provided by the company,” said Zeller. “The state says show us your info and have to rely on the company to give them the right facts. Most companies, you hope, do the right thing.”

The 60-day period for the public to voice its concerns after each application was filed both expired. Elizabeth Evans, pastor of the Church of God of Prophecy in Hamlet, put in a request for a public hearing regarding these permits but she said the state ignored her request.

“This won’t just affect people of today, it will affect people of future generations as well,” Evans said. “Me being a volunteer at a hospital, I see sick people everyday. I don’t wanna see more.”

Rodgers said the public’s next available step is to argue the merits of the case to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He said it’s up to the public to pursue that option.

Less than a dozen people attended portions of the meeting. Zeller said he figured attendance was low due to the scheduling of the informational session so close to Christmas.

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