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The NC General Assembly reconvenes for the 2014 short session today with budget adjustments, teacher pay, and coal ash disposal topping the legislators’ to-do list.

Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue told reporters Tuesday as lawmakers discuss a plan for coal ash disposal, it’s also time for lawmakers to revisit the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and whether the agency has the sufficient  personnel and authority to address the current disposal crisis.

“Given the push over the last couple years, DENR is shorthanded to handle some of these crises. So part of a solution in this session as we come up with solutions to the coal ash  crisis, is to re-examine what the regulatory authority ought to look like and how many people ought to be doing it. And it’s not rocket science,” said Sen. Blue on Tuesday.

Governor McCrory will be pushing his own coal ash plan this session, a plan that has irked some key legislators within his own party.

Earlier this week Duke Energy began the process of cleaning up some of the 39,000 tons of coal ash that spilled into the Dan River back in February.

For more from Tuesday’s press conference, click below:

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© Nell Redmond, Greenpeace

© Nell Redmond, Greenpeace

In a corporate “sustainability report,” Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said yesterday that her company needs to “a better job of safely managing our coal ash ponds.”

Uh, Earth to Lynn: That’s not gonna cut it. Duke doesn’t need to “manage” its ponds; it needs to get rid of them ASAP. As the experts at the Southern Environmental Law Center noted in this recent newsletter:

“The best option has always been to move the ash into dry, lined landfills away from water sources. Thanks to legal pressure from SELC, that’s just what major utilities in South Carolina have agreed to do. South Carolina Gas and Electric has already begun removing 2.4 million tons of coal ash from lagoons at its plant on the Wateree River. And in November, after months of litigation and negotiations, Santee Cooper committed to clean up 11 million tons of coal ash throughout its system.

Duke Energy should do the responsible thing and follow their lead. The state of North Carolina should immediately move to put in place clear, enforceable requirements to recycle coal ash or move it to lined landfills away from our waterways. To do otherwise is to ignore both the public will and the public good.”

Let’s hope citizens and advocacy groups keep up the pressure on Duke to stop stalling and start acting on the state’s coal ash crisis. In this vein hundreds of protesters will gather today for a large protest against Duke’s policies in downtown Charlotte. Click here and here for more information.

FF-coalAshNot that there isn’t good reason to doubt just about anything that Duke Energy spokespeople say when it comes to the recent coal ash disaster, but assuming that the claims advanced yesterday that full clean-up could cost $10 billion have any validity at all, here is one very obvious and concise response that those who care about the public interest might want to offer up:

“Yes, and your point?”

Seriously, did anyone think cleaning up the mess would be cheap or fast? We get it, Duke and we’ve gotten it for years. Your giant and massively profitable mega-corporation doesn’t want to spend any shareholder or fat cat executive dough on something as mundane and bothersome as cleaning up your own mess. Isn’t that special?

Well here’s the deal — or, at least what ought to be the deal: Read More

Coal ash clean upThe N.C. League of Conservation Voters has a powerful critique of the Governor’s coal ash “plan” in this morning’s Weekly Conservation Bulletin (see below). As an aside, how can DENR Secretary Skvarla and the Guv be “adamant that one size probably will not fit all”?

Another Stall on Coal Ash

Gov. Pat McCrory last week proposed legislation which would let the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) direct Duke Energy to ‘close’ its coal ash ponds – an authority which DENR already inherently has through its clean water permitting process – but leave Duke proposing how such ‘closures’ would take place.

Strip away the double-talk and it’s clear that the governor is doing little more than asking for the General Assembly’s blessing on his plan to let Duke continue to call the shots on coal ash. Read More

Coal ash clean upWasn’t it just several weeks ago that Gov. Pat McCrory was stating plainly that North Carolina needed to move its coal ash waste sites away from water as is being done in South Carolina? Now after much hemming and hawing and backtracking, it’s clear that no such things is going to happen — at least not with any help from the Guv. Yesterday, McCrory made his position reversal/wimp out official with an announcement that moving all the ash is now no longer part of his plan. Citizens will no doubt feel much safer however with his proposal to change the law so that, as WRAL reports:  “power companies would have to give the public faster notice of coal ash spills.”

In fairness, not everything the Guv had to say was terrible. As noted in a statement by Molly Diggins at the Sierra Club:

“We appreciate that the Governor has come forward with the outline of a plan to address the problem of leaking coal ash pits that are contaminating our state’s waters.

We are concerned, however, that the broad outline of the plan announced today appears to be prospective, and does not seem to address the immediate need to remove the source of contamination from pits next to waterways. Read More