A statewide citizens group formed last year to demand stronger state environmental protection efforts to combat coal ash pollution is decrying the new state rankings attached to the state’s coal ash ponds and the closed door meeting between Gov. McCrory and Duke energy officials that came to light this week. Here are some excerpts from a press release that the group distributed yesterday:
“The Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT) Against Coal Ash formed in July as a way for residents from across the state to connect in solidarity in their demands for an end to the coal ash crisis. Members were appalled and confused last week when DEQ downgraded coal ash sites that as recently as December the agency’s staff had ranked as high priority. The proposed low or low-intermediate status means the sites could potentially be capped in place and left indefinitely to leak toxins into neighboring groundwater supplies.
‘It’s an established fact that all sites are leaking, so of course they should be listed as high priority,’ says Deborah Graham, who lives near the Buck plant in Salisbury. ‘We know more than we ever wanted to know about the damage this toxic waste causes to our environment and health each and every day it continues to sit there.’
‘DEQ changing our priority from high to low-intermediate is just wrong,’ says Debra Baker, who lives within 100 feet of the G.G. Allen plant in Belmont. ‘DEQ says they did not have enough information from Duke Energy, but they have had several months. Now, we are still living on bottled water, waiting for this mess to be cleaned up.’
To urgently address the realities of coal ash pollution, ACT Against Coal Ash released its Unifying Principles so that state decision makers, Duke Energy, and the public can better understand the needs and demands of residents most harmed — now or in the future — by Duke’s coal ash pollution.
And here are some statements made by ACT Against Coal Ash members in response to yesterday’s WRAL.com story that Gov. McCrory met with Duke Energy officials in a private, closed door meeting last June:
From Debra Baker, whose husband died from environmentally related lung disease several years after moving into their home next to G.G. Allen, which has been illegally polluting the air for decades:”I’ve tried calling and emailing Governor McCrory. I’ve sent him photographs of my house full of bottled water. And all I’ve gotten is his automatic email response. He’s never called, sent a letter, nothing. I’m mad that he’s having backroom meetings with Duke Energy but won’t talk to us. It seems like he thinks my husband’s life doesn’t matter. My husband was only 43 years old when he passed. Now, I’m a widow with a 19 year old son. They think this problem is just going to go away, but it’s not. It’s our lives. They need to talk to us.”
From Caroline Armijo, grew up near the Belews Creek power plant and has been actively engaging in coal ash work for a decade: “We can all name multiple individuals who have suffered from devastating illnesses, which have baffled doctors and too often proved fatal. Our communities are now rising up together to demand a better way. Duke Energy and DEQ have to take the initiative to actually pursue a long-term solution and work with and for our communities, instead of making backroom decisions that are blatantly fraudulent and corrupt.”
From Debbie Hall, who lives near the proposed coal ash dump in Lee County and is a member of EnvironmentaLEE: “The decision by DEQ to allow Duke Energy to dump millions of tons of coal ash on Lee and Chatham Counties coming mere days after that meeting is telling. Its appalling, and shows exactly where Governor McCrory’s priorities are. Neither DEQ Secretary van der Vaart nor the Governor have made the communities impacted by Duke Energy’s coal ash a priority.”
The bottom line: The state’s coal ash problem remains a huge and growing issue for the McCrory administration — from a policy, political (and maybe even legal) perspective. And from the looks of things, it’s going to become an even higher profile issue before it does away. The Governor would do well to tackle the problem honestly and aggressively lest he find himself buried by it in the months and years ahead.