Commentary

Governor signs “Duke Energy Protection Act”

Coal ashIn case you missed it late last Friday, Governor McCrory gave final approval to a bill that purports to address the state’s coal ash crisis, but that environmental advocates are deriding as the “Duke Energy Protection Act.” The folks at the League of Conservation Voters have distributed this helpful response/summary this morning:

GOV. MCCRORY SIGNS “DUKE ENERGY PROTECTION ACT”

Former Duke employee shows his loyalty to former employer, not current constituents

RALEIGH (July 18, 2016): To no surprise, Governor Pat McCrory signed disastrous coal ash legislation into law late Friday afternoon, further stalling the cleanup of the state’s toxic coal ash mess. House Bill 630, more appropriately called the “Duke Energy Protection Act,” gives the utility monopoly even more time to leave poisonous coal ash waste in leaking pits. Every day that passes puts the health and safety of more and more North Carolinians at risk. Even more egregious, this bill undermines the more than 8,000 comments submitted by North Carolina citizens earlier this year urging leaders to remove all coal ash sitting near waterways and to label no community as low-risk.

“There are families across North Carolina who cannot drink their own well water because it’s contaminated with the cancer-causing chemicals found in Duke Energy’s coal ash,” said Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for NC League of Conservation Voters. “Duke Energy had revenues of over $23 billion in 2015, yet Governor McCrory just signed a law that lets his former employer off the hook with a cheaper alternative and a longer timeline. If the water in the Governor’s Mansion were poisoned, I’ll bet Gov. McCrory wouldn’t get by on bottled water for three years, so why does he expect North Carolina citizens to do just that?”

Many North Carolinians have been subsisting on bottled water since the State of North Carolina notified them in 2015 that they should not drink their water.

“Unlike what Governor McCrory and Duke Energy want you to believe, this bill is no compromise,” continued Crawford. “Instead, it gives power back to Duke Energy, the reason for this toxic mess, to decide when or even if coal ash remains near our waterways. Clean, safe drinking water is a critical issue that should have been considered in its own legislation; it should not be grouped with a bill designed to protect the interests of Duke Energy. It is shameful that the McCrory administration continues to ignore the health of our people in favor of political back-scratching with a dirty polluter.”

Facts on House Bill 630

It requires DEQ to classify some impoundments as low risk, eliminating the previous criteria for classification, including: public health, environment and natural resources, groundwater contamination, surface water contamination, and the amount and characteristics of coal ash in the specific pit. This negates the comments of the thousands of people who demanded that their communities not be ranked low priority, and abandons the good classifications made by DEQ in May based on science and health data.

If this bill had not been passed, seven of the 14 sites would be fully excavated, 4 because of Duke’s agreement and the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act, and 3 because of N.C. Superior Court order. It is completely unnecessary for H630 to restate these facts.

The purported cost to Duke Energy of full excavation of all 14 sites has been inflated. The company’s own reports to the SEC say it would cost $6 to $8 billion to excavate all ponds, not the $10b in their fact sheet to H630 or the $15b they are telling members. Additionally, Duke is already spending $4 to $4.5 billion to excavate the 7 ponds under court order; so the extra cost to excavate the remaining sites should be about $1.5 to no more than $4 billion.

Attorney Frank Holleman of the Southern environmental Law Center puts it this way:

“Governor McCrory has shown his disregard for the views of the people of North Carolina and for their clean water and safety. Almost 8000 citizens and organizations in North Carolina in good faith submitted comments on Duke Energy’s proposal to leave its coal ash in unlined and leaking holes in the ground next to their water supplies and over 98 percent called on the governor to have Duke Energy remove its coal ash.

Instead of requiring Duke Energy to remove its coal ash from unlined, leaking holes in the ground Governor McCrory has done what Duke Energy’s lobbyists wanted him to do and signed a bill that bails out Duke Energy. To make matters worse, Governor McCrory signed this bailout bill after work hours late on a Friday afternoon in the hopes that the public and press would overlook what he has done. Actions today demonstrate that the people of North Carolina cannot count on the government of North Carolina to protect their clean water and drinking water supplies, but they can count on Governor McCrory to protect Duke Energy.”

 

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