Among the most prominent reasons for US inaction on climate change has been China. The story goes like this – we are unwilling to engage at international climate talks until the Chinese take a serious step. You can see several clips here of members of Congress making these claims for over the years.
Some good news today for renewable energy and global warming! A new study shows that the cost of utility-scale solar energy is as low at 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour in comparison to natural gas at 6.1 cents and coal at 6.6 cents. The investment banking firm Lazard, who conducted the study, highlights that even without subsidies solar is coming in at 7.2 cents and wind at 3.7 cents. You can read the New York Times story about the report here.
For North Carolina we’ve already seen our national ranking as #4 in solar growth and wind energy opportunities abound, especially off-shore. As renewables become more competitive and create new economy jobs, will our state continue to advance renewable energy and do our part to combat global warming? Will we put ratepayers first? Or will we continue down a fossil fuel path of fracking and off-shore oil drilling?
We’ve all been reading about the ugly environmental disaster unfolding in Eden at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River coal-burning plant. As of this writing, the coal ash pond pipe has been plugged, but not before dumping more than 80,000 tons of waste into the Dan River.
Meanwhile in Washington, the US EPA is considering other options for getting rid of coal ash in the future – mixing it into cement and wallboard during manufacture. Utilities face more stringent regulations at coal plants, so many support this approach, which is called “beneficial reuse.”
You can read more about the risks of mixing coal ash (which contains lead, arsenic, mercury and selenium) into consumer products from the Healthy Building Network here. US EPA regulations will be released in December.
An Associated Press investigation into water contamination linked to fracking shows contamination in multiple wells in at least two states, information which is contrary to industry statements in the past. This investigation comes on the heels of the recent confirmation that fracking practices were the cause of earthquakes in Ohio in 2011, where fracking waste has been injected deep underground. Earthquakes have also been documented in Oklahoma and Texas. As North Carolina considers this energy source, it should closely monitor this information.
“Among the findings in the AP’s review:
— Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months.
— Ohio had 37 complaints in 2010 and no confirmed contamination of water supplies; 54 complaints in 2011 and two confirmed cases of contamination; 59 complaints in 2012 and two confirmed contaminations; and 40 complaints for the first 11 months of 2013, with two confirmed contaminations and 14 still under investigation, Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mark Bruce said in an email. None of the six confirmed cases of contamination was related to fracking, Bruce said.
— West Virginia has had about 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells over the past four years, and in four cases the evidence was strong enough that the driller agreed to take corrective action, officials said.
— A Texas spreadsheet contains more than 2,000 complaints, and 62 of those allege possible well-water contamination from oil and gas activity, said Ramona Nye, a spokeswoman for the Railroad Commission of Texas, which oversees drilling. Texas regulators haven’t confirmed a single case of drilling-related water-well contamination in the past 10 years, she said.”
Independent mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg announced a group that he co-chairs will spend $12 million in a gun control ad campaign that will begin next week. Mayors Against Illegal Guns is targeting vulnerable US Senators in advance of a likely floor vote in April. The group is focusing on states where it believes it can have the most impact on the upcoming vote. US Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), is among a group of 15 targeted by the campaign.
The Mayors group has a three point legislative platform:
- Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America
- Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines
- Make gun trafficking a federal crime, with real penalties for “straw purchasers”
In a radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon in February, Senator Hagan said she was “looking at all of the proposals” on gun control. She was non-committal on policy options that Fitzsimon asked her about and she stressed the need to protect 2nd Amendment rights and use common sense. Hagan ended by saying the focus had to be on policy that could “realistically become law.”
The ad campaign will rightfully pressure Senator Hagan to clarify her stated position on her website:
“Obtaining a lifetime hunting license is a Hagan family tradition, and her husband is qualified to teach hunter safety. Not only is responsible gun ownership a part of the fabric of North Carolina, but it is also a fundamental constitutional right. Senator Hagan is a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, and will fight to ensure law-abiding citizens are not restricted in their right to bear arms.”
Her constituents deserve to know her position on criminal background checks and assault weapons and magazines, now, not when the vote comes to the US Senate floor.