Commentary

Ouch! Editorials blast McCrory administration on LGBT discrimination, coal ash pollution, offshore drilling

McCrory_budget305-aNorth Carolina Governor Pat McCrory did not have a good weekend on the editorial pages of the state’s major newspapers.

The Winston-Salem Journal blasted the administration’s decision to make well water near coal ash cites “safe” by raising the permissible amount of coal ash chemicals in the water.

The Wilmington Star News praised the Obama administration’s decision to block offshore oil and gas drilling near the fragile Carolina coastline and decried McCrory’s (and Senator Thom Tillis’) failure to listen to coastal communities.

And, of course, these editorials come on top of several more in recent days that have rejected the Guv’s new LGBT discrimination law as utterly outrageous.

Raleigh’s News & Observer called it “an insult to all the people of North Carolina. ”

The Greensboro News & Record called it “a sad day for North Carolina and its cities.”

The Asheville Citizen-Times decried the law’s effort to demonize LGBT people.

And. the Guv’s hometown paper, the Charlotte Observer put it this way in likening him to the worst politician-bigots of the 20th Century:

“It was, in the end, about a 21st century governor who joined a short, tragic list of 20th century governors. You know at least some of these names, probably: Wallace, Faubus, Barnett. They were men who fed our worst impulses, men who rallied citizens against citizens, instead of leading their states forward.

This is what Pat McCrory did Wednesday. In just 12 hours. It wasn’t the stand in the schoolhouse door. It was a sprint past the bathroom door and straight into the South’s dark, bigoted past.”

And judging by the mostly mocking national reviews of the new discrimination law — the New Yorker published an article in which McCrory is described as swearing in a class of “bathroom cadets” to enforce the new law — it would appear that any hopes McCrory may have harbored for a national political future after his time in the mansion expires have been pretty definitively flushed down the drain.

Commentary

YCMTSU: State “solves” drinking water problem around coal ash sites by weakening the rules

From the good folks at ACTAgainstCoalAsh.org

Residents Across North Carolina Outraged by State’s Decision to Rescind Do-Not-Drink Orders:
ACT Against Coal Ash Demands Solutions for Contaminated Wells at DEQ Public Hearings

Across North Carolina, Duke Energy’s neighbors, many of whom have been living on bottled water for over 10 months, as well as Lee County residents are outraged by the state’s decision to rescind 235 do not drink orders. The flip-flop from state regulators came just two days before another round of DEQ’s public hearings on coal ash basin closure, adding to residents’ mistrust of Governor McCrory and the staff he appointed to run DEQ and DHHS.

Tonight, the Down East Coal Ash Coalition plans to make a big showing at DEQ’s public hearing for Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant in Goldsboro, N.C. Local resident, Johnnie Gurley is skeptical that DEQ will prioritize the public’s interest over Duke Energy’s profits. “First, a fine of $25 million for violations of the law at one site reduced to $7 million for all of them,” explains Gurley, “Then, just as we found out about a secret dinner between the Governor, DEQ leadership and Duke Energy Executives, coal ash sites that were classified as ‘’high priority” are now “low”, or “low-intermediate”. Now, suddenly, water we were told not to drink because it was contaminated is safe to drink. Either God worked a miracle or Governor McCrory is in Duke Energy’s pocket.” Read more

Commentary

Are Duke Energy and the McCrory administration committing a human rights violation?

Coal ash eventSome victims of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution gathered with a group of advocates and activists in front of the North Carolina Governor’s mansion this morning. Their message to Gov. Pat McCrory (who was recently revealed to have had a secret dinner meeting last summer with representatives of his longtime former employer (i.e. Duke) even as the company was facing prosecution for its misdeeds):

“Come have dinner with us too….Oh, and bring some water, too.”

Lord knows they could use both.

The water would come in handy because Duke has now informed a large number of folks living near ash sites in Goldsboro, Belmont and other places that their water is no longer safe to drink. Indeed, the company is now providing these folks with one gallon of bottled water per person per day for an indeterminate period even as it continues to drag its feet in cleaning up the sites.

As one homeowner noted (after listing some of the numerous untimely deaths that have occurred in her community from cancers and other diseases), “just imagine trying to live this way.”

And the dinner meeting? Well, if McCrory would actually break bread with some of these people (many of whom stated this morning that they have been asking for such a meeting for months to no avail) it might force him to summon up a smidgen of empathy. After all, we’re talking about average, middle and working class folks living in the 21st Century in one of the most advanced societies on the planet, who have lost access to one of the fundamentals of life: safe drinking water.

It’s enough to make a body think of the ongoing disaster in Flint, Michigan (where the city and state are now attempting to deal with the fallout from having poisoned a large portion of the citizenry through their shortsighted decision to save a few bucks).

Indeed, as one public health expert argued persuasively the other day, it’s quite plausible that the scandal in Flint amounts to a human rights violation:

“This emergency goes beyond simply a public health problem….It is something much worse: a human rights abuse in an American city. In 2010, the United Nations declared that ‘ … clean drinking water … [is] essential to the realization of all human rights.’ Flint’s contaminated water will prevent children from realizing their human right to health, enumerated in Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Let’s hope things don’t get that far in North Carolina. But if these wronged North Carolinians don’t soon get some relief, perhaps it’s time to start raising the same question here: Are Duke Energy and the McCrory administration committing (or, at least, enabling) a human rights violation? It would be interesting to hear McCrory’s explanation as to why they aren’t.

Commentary, News

ACT Against Coal Ash: Citizens group demands clean-up, responds to McCrory-Duke meeting

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.

The alliance also launched a website and a video.

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.”

Read more

Commentary

Editorial critical of latest DENR-Duke shenanigans

ACoal Ashs noted in this space yesterday morning, federal regulators have been forced in recent days to put the kibosh on yet another sweetheart arrangement between Duke Energy and the McCrory administration that would have allowed the company to begin to address some of the problems in its coal ash “ponds” by draining the toxic liquid directly into rivers and streams. What could go wrong, huh?

This morning the editorial page of the Fayetteville Observer rightfully (if rather politely) criticizes the plan and issues a word of thanks to federal officials at the EPA for stepping in and putting up a big stop sign:

In late August, DENR told Duke it could begin draining all of its 33 ash ponds across the state. Three weeks later, the EPA intervened, pointing out that this would likely violate Duke’s wastewater discharge permits and allow massive amounts of polluted water to be dumped, with virtually no monitoring for the impact on water quality.

Ponds at Duke’s shut-down Cape Fear power plant, which sits upstream from water-treatment plants for Lee, Harnett and Cumberland counties, hold an estimated billion gallons of coal-ash-contaminated wastewater. According to the EPA, DENR would have allowed Duke to dump it all in the river.

A Duke vice president complained that being forced to comply with its permits may make it impossible to meet a cleanup timetable.

We’re grateful that the EPA stepped in, but sorry to see DENR again being so casual about our health and safety. We hope the feds continue to watch closely.

Let’s hope the McCrory administration doesn’t give a lot of folks good reason to get a lot less polite with their criticism in the days ahead. We’re not, however, holding our breath on that front.