COLUMBIA — A number of conservation groups in South Carolina joined forces Wednesday to structure a fight against Santee Cooper's planned coal plant in Florence County.

Dana Beach, executive director of the Coastal Conservation League, along with members of the Sierra Club, new Florence city Mayor Stephen Wukela and others outlined an agenda for the new coalition, beginning with efforts to challenge an air permit to build the Pee Dee plant.

"Coal is making us sick and it's endangering the planet," Barbara Gottlieb, national manager of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said.

The conservationists pointed to the success similar groups had in fighting the construction of coal plants in Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas and Texas,

"We expect nothing less in South Carolina," Nancy Cave, north coast office director for the Charleston-based Coastal Conservation League, said.

Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility, is conducting studies based on concerns expressed about the construction of the $1.25 billion plant. The utility argues that the plant is needed to meet energy demands. Construction is scheduled to be complete by 2013.

Multiple permits must still be obtained.

For more on the story, read tomorrow's editions of The Post and Courier.