Commentary

Duke’s $2.8 billion in profits would clean up a lot of coal ash

News item from today’s Charlotte Observer:

“Duke Energy reported 2015 earnings Thursday of $2.8 billion on $23.5 billion in revenue, well up from the previous year but below analysts’ expectations.

The year’s net income was compared to about $1.9 billion in profit and $23.9 billion in revenue in 2014. Duke reported earning $4.05 a share compared to $2.66 in 2014.

Fourth-quarter earnings of $477 million compared to the $97 million in the fourth quarter of 2014. Mild December weather became a drag on earnings for the quarter.”

All of which leads to two obvious truths:

  1. You could clean up a heck of a lot of coal ash with that money. Heck, one could even let Duke keep a billion in profits and still make enormous headway in ending the outrageous poisoning of North Carolina’s water and the people who drink it.
  2. The notion that Duke is going to alter its borderline criminal behavior because the administration headed by its former longtime employee has slapped its hands with some comparatively paltry fines of a few million dollars (i.e. approximately one or two day’s profits) is just plain laughable.
Commentary

McCrory, Duke, coal ash in national spotlight Sunday night

2-24-14-NCPW-cartoonTry as some people might to wish North Carolina’s massive coal ash problem away, it isn’t going anywhere soon — either physically or politically. Another chapter will begin to unfold this coming Sunday evening when the CBS news magazine show 60 Minutes  examines the situation.

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, Duke CEO Lynn Good will be interviewed by Leslie Stahl. No word on whether they will discuss the intimate relationship between Duke and the McCrory administration.

The Guv. of course is a former 28-year Duke employee, who keeps hiring many of his former colleagues into state government.

The story was apparently recorded in September, but the coal ash mess hasn’t gotten any better since — with residents of Lee County balking at hosting a repository, new leaks springing up and a federal investigation of the whole situation still lurking out there somewhere.

Bottom line: Stay tuned. Neither the coal ash itself or the political fallout from the Dan River disaster will be buried anytime soon.

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.

Commentary

More you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up coal ash news

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

Commentary

One giant leap for Duke, one small step for the environment

Coal ash clean upThe Charlotte Business Journal reports that Duke Energy has decided to change its present course and bury the coal ash at another one of its South Carolina sites in a lined landfill.

Hallelujah.

As has been noted multiple times by environmental experts, moving toxic coal ash to lined landfills is the only realistic option when it comes to keeping this nasty substance out of our water supplies. And the longer Duke dithers and delays, the greater the risk that another Dan River disaster (or, God forbid, another Kingston, Tennessee calamity) will hit our state.

Fortunately, the main, high technology devices involved in moving the ash are something called a bulldozer and a dump truck. The problem is that it takes a heckuva lot of them working for heckuva long time to get the job done (which, of course, costs a heckuva lot of money).

To  which all a body can say in response is: “Tough. Duke, you made the mess along with gigantic profits on the tab of ratepayers. It’s time to get to work and repay some of the debt you owe to society.”

Let’s hope this new development from south of the border is a harbinger of something more than just a small step for the future of our environment.