Author

Lisa Finaldi is the former National Campaigns Director for Greenpeace US.

Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill in North CarolinaWe’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:

  1. Require a criminal background check for every gun sold in America
  2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines
  3. 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.

 

 

While the General Assembly is currently focused on smoothing the road to drill for natural gas in North Carolina, a new report shows the economic value clean energy has brought to our state over the past five years.

The report was prepared by Research Triangle Institute and LaCapra Associates.

Some of the key findings:

Clean energy programs created or retained over 21,000 jobs.

The clean energy industry and government incentives spurred $1.4 billion in project investments.

These projects contributed about $1.7 billion to the gross state product.

Clean energy and energy efficiency projects saved 8.2 million megawatt hours of energy.

For every $1 spent on renewable projects, $1.90 was generated for that investment. For energy efficiency projects, $1.67 was generated for that investment.

Finally, rate payers benefit from renewables and energy efficiency programs.  A typical NC residential customer saved $.50 per month last year and that is expected to only rise if our state continues to lead in this industry.

Earlier this year the Washington Post reported that the conservative Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were considering a strategy to repeal North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES).  Our state has the only RES legislation in the south. This legislation requires utilities to  hold a portion of their energy portfolio in renewables.   This legislation and incentive programs are the reason for the healthiness of the renewable energy industry.  As the governor and legislature focus on job creation and economic development, this part of the energy sector now has a strong and proven track record and should be encouraged to grow.

 

 

 

 

The closed-door decision by the NC Utilities Commission (NCUC) and the Public Staff to end its investigation into the Duke-Progress merger in exchange for a handful of restrained conditions is another missed opportunity by state regulators to protect NC consumers.

The Commission must vote on the proposal on Monday which includes conditions such as shuffling of staff and board members, concretizing Jim Rogers’ already planned 2013 retirement and throwing a few bones to consumers and low-income customers. It’s mind-boggling to think how little has come from the merger investigation. Read More