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Coal ash clean upThis morning’s Weekly Briefing tries to bring readers up to date on the sad state of North Carolina’s coal ash debate and the surprising — and potentially tragic — lack of action by state leaders to confront Duke Energy and protect the public’s well-being.

One important side story to the coal ash crisis that it does not get into, however, is the increasingly absurd saga of Gov. McCrory’s failure to report his Duke Energy holdings on required state ethics forms. Fortunately, Sunday’s Charlotte Observer editorial page took care of that issue pretty comprehensively:

“We’re not sure which is most upsetting:

• That Gov. Pat McCrory owned a substantial amount of Duke Energy stock for his first 15 months in office, including for two months after Duke’s massive coal ash spill, even though that posed an obvious conflict of interest as the utility lobbied the administration hard on all kinds of matters.

• That McCrory filed an inaccurate report with the State Ethics Commission, saying he didn’t own any Duke stock as of Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did. Doing so reveals either a desire to mislead or gross incompetence by him and his general counsel.

• That McCrory still doesn’t get it. The governor maintains “we haven’t broken any rules” when that is indisputably untrue. He says he is “amazed” at the questions surrounding his mistake, fully unable to comprehend that it’s a matter most North Carolinians consider newsworthy.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/08/16/5109117/mccrorys-mishandling-of-his-duke.html#.U_IW-8VdVAI#storylink=cpy
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VacationThere has been a lot of talk in recent years about how the North Carolina General Assembly is starting to look and sound more and more like Congress — especially when it comes to the influence of big dollars from corporate fat cats and plain old, general dysfunction.

Today, we got another persuasive indicator: Legislators announced plans to take an “August recess.” Oh, they may not be calling it that, but this morning’s news that House and Senate leaders plan to pass a FY2015 budget this week, adjourn temporarily and then come back in mid-August to deal with the coal ash crisis that’s been simmering for months — years, really — and then recess again and come back in November after the election signifies a change in how business gets done on Jones Street.

Traditionally, when North Carolina lawmakers conclude the second-year-in-the-biennium “short” session in early summer, they adjourn until the following January. This may not be the best set-up, but it does force lawmakers to wrap up their business and maintain the General Assembly’s status as a “part-time” legislature.

This new development is enough to make a body suspicious as to the motives of those behind it. Read More

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Coal AshSteve Harrison over at Blue NC has a good catch today in a post entitled “90% of coal ash remains in Dan River after Duke ‘completes’ cleanup.”

As Steve notes:

If this is what they call “success,” one would hate to see them fail:

“Since the operation began on May 6, approximately 2,500 tons of coal ash and river sediment have been removed from this location. Crews and equipment were staged at Abreu-Grogan Park in Danville for the past three months.

The company previously completed removal of ash and sediment from water treatment facilities in Danville and South Boston, as well as from locations in the river at the Dan River Steam Station and Town Creek, two miles downstream from the plant. More than 500 tons of coal ash and river sediment were removed from these areas.”

Do the math. A low-end estimate on the spill had some 39,000 tons of ash released, and this combined 3,000 tons removed included an unknown quantity of non-ash sediment. What’s left in the river could be closer to 95%. And the General Assembly wants to give Duke Energy “more flexibility” in the cleanup/relocation of all the other coal ash ponds?

The story to which the post links (in Dredging Today) goes on to make clear that Duke is really going all out with the cleanup efforts: Read More

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Coal AshLest anyone have the impression that the coal ash clean-up plan adopted in the Senate yesterday takes care of all of the problems and inadequacies in the Governor’s proposal, be sure to check out this list compiled by the experts at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Though certainly an improvement (the Sierra Club calls it “a good job of setting out a clear timeline for coal ash clean up”), the Senate plan still leaves more than a quarter of the state’s population unprotected. As the SELC folks report:

“The current N.C. Senate Coal Ash Bill would leave at risk about 2.6 million people who rely on drinking water intakes downstream from ten leaking Duke Energy coal ash sites not required to be cleaned up under the bill. These ten leaking coal ash sites are contaminating groundwater, rivers and lakes near communities across North Carolina.

Read More

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A Senate committee reviewed a coal ash clean-up bill yesterday and afterwards, the experts and advocates at the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club responded with a lukewarm review:

“NC Sierra Club Statement on the NC Senate’s Coal Ash Bill

RALEIGH – This afternoon the NC Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources held an information-only hearing on the Senate’s coal ash bill that takes the place of the Governor’s proposal.

Upon the Senate’s actions, Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director of the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

‘The Senate did well to create ambitious timelines for closure of coal ash pits in the state. However, closure standards with safeguards to ensure that coal ash is permanently separated from water are lacking in the bill.’

‘This bill lacks guidance Read More