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Fiery Esquire journalist Charles Pierce weighed in on the Duke coal ash mess yesterday afternoon in this column and, as you can see, he pulled no punches:

“There’s a lot of very weird stuff going on in the newly insane state of North Carolina. The state has a problem with coal ash, and with its groundwater, and with the reluctance of Duke Energy to clean up, among other things, the 39,000 fking [tons*] of the gunk that it spilled into the Dan River in February. The state’s Environmental Management Commission decided that Duke Energy needed a “reasonable amount of time” to correct the groundwater violations. (As should be obvious, you could sail a coal barge through that adjective there.) A Superior Court judge said to hell with that noise and reversed the commission’s findings, demanding that the clean-up begin immediately.

And you will never guess what the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission did.

No, really, you will never guess.

Give up?

They appealed the judge’s ruling.

Told you that you wouldn’t believe it.

Read the rest of Pierce’s column by clicking here.

*… Pierce’s column understated this figure as 39,000 pounds.

Coal ash clean upIf you’re unclear as to the status of the various legal proceedings surrounding Duke Energy’s coal ash mess, be sure to check out this morning’s story over on the main PW site by Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey – “Flurry of filings by Duke and state officials spell lengthy delays for coal ash clean up.” As Sharon reports, things in North Carolina are, sadly, not following the relatively expeditious and effective path they followed in South Carolina (where the clean-up is already underway).

“In just a little over a year, from lawsuit to settlement in 2012, citizen and conservation groups in South Carolina pushed South Carolina Electric & Gas to begin cleaning up coal ash contamination at its sites there.

State environmental regulators stayed out and the utility stepped up, coming up with a plan to remove the ash from lagoons and either re-use it if possible or move it to lined storage elsewhere.

A similar push was afoot in North Carolina as groups investigated contamination at Duke Energy plants across the state, asked the state’s Environmental Management Commission for a ruling on how groundwater contamination rules applied to coal ash sites here, and prepared for lawsuits against the company for contamination at its Asheville and Riverbend plants.

But unlike what happened in South Carolina, Read More

WheatiesHope you ate your Wheaties this morning! This is going to be a busy Monday – so try to keep up!

First, today is the final day for open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.  Chris Fitzsimon’s Monday numbers column has a fascinating look at the ACA as we get down to the wire.

Of course, there will always be some folks who think the ACA should be repealed. Among them, Senator Richard Burr who is speaking at a Raleigh luncheon at this hour detailing his replacement ideas in the  Burr-Coburn-Hatch Health Reform Plan.

But here’s one number to keep in mind at the health care debate rages on: 9.5 million. That’s the number of Americans previously uninsured who now have gotten health coverage under Obamacare, according to a new analysis.WSJ-3

Let’s stick with one more number before we scoot on to what else is happening today. And that number is 11,300.

That’s the number of jobs North Carolina lost in February.

Yes, our unemployment has fallen in the past two months, but The Wall Street Journal notes that North Carolina led the U.S. in job losses last month.

What else should you be watching today?

The State Board of Education is holding planning and work sessions today and tomorrow at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Members of the NC Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force meet this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. to discuss alternative teacher pay models that could be linked to student performance.

Judy Kidd, President of the Classroom Teachers Association of NC, is a member of that task force. Kidd joined us over the weekend on NC Policy Watch’s radio show to discuss tenure and teacher compensation. Kidd also shared her thoughts on Governor McCrory’s pay proposal that rewards new teachers, but does not (as of yet) extend to veteran teachers.

Click below for an excerpt from that interview or here for the full 12-minute segment.

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The Statesville’s Record & Landmark reports that local education officials there are also skeptical of the governor’s ideas for teacher pay, which he outlined last week during the annual meeting of the Greater Statesville Chamber of Commerce.

3-31-14 NCPW cartoonThis evening Charlotte’s City Council holds a special meeting to discuss how to handle the vacancy in the mayor’s office. You’ll recall last week, Patrick Cannon resigned his duties after he was arrested on charges of public corruption.

Charlotte Observer editorial page editor Taylor Batten’s has an excellent piece – 10 takeaways from the Cannon allegations- that everyone should read as the Queen City tries to regain its footing.

And  the NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement will join with environmental and health experts this evening for a town hall in Eden, as they focus on coal ash disposal and the clean-up of the Dan River.

Finally, we’ll close out Lunch Links with a little Herb Alpert. The gifted trumpeter/bandleader is celebrating his 74th birthday today. Enjoy!

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Coal AshAs this recent editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer noted, the Duke coal ash disaster seems to have brought about some real (if rather hypocritical) improvements in the public debate over environmental protection in North Carolina. Sadly, however, state policy under the current state leadership remains terribly flawed and stuck in “regulatory rollback” mode. A classic case in point was highlighted in this morning’s Weekly Conservation Bulletin from the League of Conservation Voters:

“We’ve been waiting for it, and now it’s begun: the formal review process for North Carolina’s most critical legal protections for clean water. These are the rules that the state has used to demand protection of drinking water, water-based recreation, fishing and wildlife resources – and that citizens can use to force action when the state fails to do its job.

Many of these key protections from pollution have been in place for more than a decade, and have worked to hold many abuses in check. Regardless, the N.C. General Assembly as part of last year’s regulatory “reform” legislation mandated that they all be put on a fast track for review. (And if they’re not renewed, on greased rails to the trash heap.) Read More

Here’s the latest in the civil court case involving Duke Energy and the clean-up of coal-ash ponds. Click here for background on the case.

Wake Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway denied a request Thursday from the utility company to delay a previous order to start immediately dealing with contamination from coal-ash ponds Duke maintains around the state.

Duke had asked that the clean-up be delayed while it appealed Ridgeway’s decision earlier this month to order Duke to take immediate action to stop contamination by coal-ash ponds. Today’s order means that Duke must be forward with plans to clean up the ponds.

Below are copies of Ridgeway’s order, as well a motion from environmental groups asking that the stay be denied.

 

Duke Stay Coal Ash by NC Policy Watch

 

 

Enviro Objection Stay by NC Policy Watch