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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

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

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

© 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