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Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill in North CarolinaWe’ve all been reading about the ugly environmental disaster unfolding in Eden at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River coal-burning plant.  As of this writing, the coal ash pond pipe has been plugged, but not before dumping more than 80,000 tons of waste into the Dan River.

Meanwhile in Washington, the US EPA is considering other options for getting rid of coal ash in the future – mixing it into cement and wallboard during manufacture.  Utilities face more stringent regulations at coal plants, so many support this approach, which is called “beneficial reuse.”

You can read more about the risks of mixing coal ash (which contains lead, arsenic, mercury and selenium) into consumer products from the Healthy Building Network here.  US EPA regulations will be released in December.

Coal ashThis week’s top laugh-out-loud headline comes directly from the office of Governor McCrory, which had the chutzpah to send out a news release yesterday afternoon with the following headline: “Governor McCrory Directs Duke Energy to Bring Coal Ash Spill Under Control.”

What? The Duke people hadn’t considered doing this during the four days since the spill commenced? And now that their former mid-level P.R. staffer has gotten around to speaking out, they’re going to act? Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Governor McCrory: How about issuing a directive that might actually have an impact — something like telling your DENR Secretary to stop eviscerating his department and its mission and telling your buddies over at the General Assembly that you’re no longer going to be a party to their ongoing efforts to sell, develop, pave, frack and poison every square inch of land, every gallon of water and every breath of fresh air in our rapidly deteriorating natural environment?

For more info on the Dan River disaster check out this slide show from the good folks at the N.C. Conservation Network.

coal_ash-1An editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer rightfully calls for action from Duke Energy to make sure that there are no more disasters like the one impacting the Dan River:

“At Dan River, the unexpected was not only a break in a half-century old pipe that runs beneath the pond, but a discovery that sections of the pipe were made of corrugated metal, not the heavier reinforced concrete that Duke thought. At Riverbend, which has no such pipe, the unexpected could be catastrophic weather or the rupture of a containment berm, which is what happened in 2010 to a coal ash basin near Duke’s Sutton Steam plant near Wilmington.”

What can Duke do? Clean the unlined ponds. Recycle the coal ash or move it to dry, lined landfills. That’s what two South Carolina utilities have agreed to do in settling a lawsuit with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Catawba Riverkeeper and other groups. Yes, moving the coal ash is more expensive than leaving it where it is, but it’s nowhere near the legal and financial cost of a coal ash failure that contaminates a water supply.

The paper might’ve added that Duke, a company that is the biggest utility in the country, makes billions each year in profits and supposedly exists to serve the public interest, should also move as expeditiously as possible to end its use of coal. Period. That would, of course, be the best way to solve the coal ash problem.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/02/05/4666116/getting-ahead-of-the-next-coal.html#.UvN4JrQjpn9#storylink=cpy

Phil BergerMaybe it’s just life in our new and hyper-gerrymandered era in which a huge proportion of legislative seats are election-proof, but the age-old political aphorism that “all politics is local” does not appear to apply to some politicians. Take for instance, the man who is arguably North Carolina’s most powerful politician, State Senator Phil Berger.

A little over 48 hours ago, there was giant environmental disaster in the Senator’s hometown of Eden in Rockingham County when a pipe burst and 82,000 tons of coal ash (enough to fill 32 Olympic-size swimming pools) was released into the Dan River. The spill is making national headlines and Catawba Riverkeeper is tweeting pictures here.

In most parts of the world, you’d think that such disaster might send local elected officials into some sort of full-time emergency damage-mitigation mode. By all indications, however, that’s not the case in Eden. Read More

Coal smokestackAmericans have long fretted (and with good reason) over the country’s costly and destructive addiction to oil produced in the Middle East and other troubled regions. A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, however, demonstrates that North Carolina has its own closer-to-home fossil fuel addiction problem.

As Public News Service reports this morning:

“North Carolina power producers – primarily Duke Energy – spent $1.8 billion to import coal from other states in 2012 alone. A report released Tuesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists highlights that cost and the benefits of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar….According to the report, the amount of coal imported into North Carolina decreased by 36 percent from 2008 to 2012, but its cost has increased to more than $93 a ton – one of the highest prices in the nation. The report, called ‘Burning Coal, Burning Cash,’ ranks North Carolina second in the country in terms of its dependence on imported coal.”

You can read the UCS study by clicking here.
(Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists).