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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.

Commentary

In case you missed it on Friday, Michael Biesecker at AP had another troubling story on Duke Energy’s seemingly metastasizing coal ash mess. This is the lead:

Federal environmental officials spurred North Carolina regulators to reverse a policy allowing Duke Energy to drain massive amounts of polluted wastewater from its coal ash dumps directly into the state’s rivers and lakes, according to documents.

The Southern Environmental Law Center released documents Friday showing that the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources quietly gave Duke approval on Aug. 28 to start emptying liquids from all of its 33 coal ash dumps across the state through existing drain pipes at the facilities.

Good grief! What’s next? Direct pipelines into the backyards of all of Duke’s residential customers? Meanwhile, this is from Dan Besse’s Monday morning update for the League of Conservation Voters:

Around the state…Recalculating?

Users of GPS devices can attest to the high annoyance factor of the perpetual “recalculating…” messages received when they take a wrong turn.

Perhaps that helps explain our aggravation at Duke energy’s latest “whoops” on coal ash. According to Duke, it appears that they ‘miscalculated’ the amount of toxic coal ash they have stored at leaking pits around the state by, oh, about six million tons or so. Read More

News
Env NC press

Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr addresses the media alongside a family directly impacted by Duke Energy’s leaking coal ash pond at the Lee power plant near Goldsboro.

Advocates and activists for stronger action on coal ash than is included in the new state law that officially took effect today gathered outside the Old State Capitol in downtown Raleigh this morning to deliver more than 40,000 signatures to Governor Pat McCrory. The signatures represented roughly one North Carolinian for each ton of coal ash spilled into the Dan River at Duke Energy’s Eden facility in February.

Speakers at the event organized by the group Environment North Carolina were flanked by volunteers who held aerial photos of each of the ten coal ash dumps that will be left essentially unaddressed by the new legislation.

Kim Brewer, a former resident of Dukeville near the Buck Steam Plant in Rowan County assailed the new law as doing “nothing” to help her community. “There’s hexavalent chromium in our wells, and my two daughters were born with serious birth defects. My neighbors have suffered from brain tumors, cancer and respiratory problems that we believe are connected to coal ash pollution. We deserve a full cleanup. I don’t want any other family to go through what we’ve been through.” Read More

Commentary

Coal ash clean upThere have been several noteworthy reactions to Governor Pat McCrory’s strange decision to simply let the General Assembly’s coal ash legislation become law without his signature last week. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger came this close to accusing the Governor of – yikes! – improper bias toward his longtime employer when he said the following in a statement reported this morning by the Greensboro News & Record:

“The governor’s primary concern appears to be a desire to control the coal ash commission and avoid an independent barrier between his administration and former employer.”

Veteran environmental advocate and Winston-Salem city councilman Dan Besse got it just about right, however, when he authored the following for the weekly newsletter of N.C. League of Conservation Voters this morning: Read More

Uncategorized

McCrory budgetIn case you missed it over the weekend, Gov. Pat McCrory told an interviewer that he plans to sign the coal ash clean-up bill even though he believes that part of it is unconstitutional. This is from a story on WRAL.com:

McCrory said the bill’s creation of an independent coal ash oversight commission, appointed by House and Senate leaders and the governor, blurs the separation of powers of different branches of the government – just one example, he added, among several such proposals lawmakers advanced this year.

“I’m going to have to fight them from a constitutional standpoint, including even the coal ash commission,” he told Campbell. “I think this concept of creating commissions that are appointed by the legislature – or a majority by the legislature – is unconstitutional, regardless of the subject. Because that means the legislature is doing the operations of state government, which is not their responsibility. I think there’s a constitutional issue there.

How such a position squares with the Governor’s sworn duty to support the Constitution is hard to figure. Of course, when you’re listening to the rather unique policy observations of North Carolina’s current chief executive, you always have to take things with a grain of salt. In the same interview, the Guv expressed his approval for the General Assembly’s rejection of another bill during the waning hours of session last week because it contained multiple, unrelated topics. Again, this is from the WRAL story:

“There were parts of the bill that had no relevance to the other part of the bill, and that’s not the way you should do legislation,” he said.

Uh, Governor, we hate to tell you this, but you’ve already signed dozens of bill that do exactly the same thing — most notably, the infamous SB 353 from just last year. You remember that one. It dealt with those two closely-related topics: abortion clinic regulations and motorcycle safety.