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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

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Coal AshAt least two stories on the entity that seems to be fast becoming North Carolina’s Public Enemy #1 (Duke Energy) are worth your time this morning if you didn’t catch them last night.

First is this AP story about how Duke lobbyists undermined the efforts of environmental advocates last year by getting friendly legislators to slip a provision into an omnibus deregulation bill that did their bidding on coal ash regulations:

“Documents and interviews collected by The Associated Press show how Duke’s lobbyists prodded Republican legislators to tuck a 330-word provision in a regulatory reform bill running nearly 60 single-spaced pages.

Though the bill never once mentions coal ash, the change allowed Duke to avoid any costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from its unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes and the drinking wells of nearby homeowners….”

Second is this WRAL.com story about Duke pumping coal ash into a stream that leads to the Cape Fear River:

“Advocates with the Waterkeeper Alliance say pictures they released Monday of workers for Duke Energy pumping water from a coal ash pond into a stream that feeds the Cape Fear River shows the company violating state and federal clean water rules.

Duke officials don’t dispute they were pumping the water, but they say they were allowed to do so for maintenance work under current permits for the pond, which is at a retired power plant in Moncure.

‘To label the secret, unmitigated, intentional discharge of untold amounts of highly toxic wastewater as ‘routine maintenance’ seems ludicrous,’ said Peter Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance.”

 

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Coal ashIn case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out this essay by Raleigh News & Observer editorial page editor Ned Barnett in which explains and laments the demise of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Be sure to check it out even if you saw the print version, because the virtual one includes video clips of Barnett’s interview with former DENR regional supervisor Amy Adams (currently of the group Appalachian Voices).

As Barnett puts it in the essay:

Adams originally welcomed the call for efficiency [at DENR]. Like most bureaucracies, DENR needed streamlining and focus. But she balked and quit once it became clear that the real change at DENR would be less, not smarter, enforcement. DENR’s new role would be to guide permit applicants through what Skvarla calls ‘the maze’ of regulations.

As Adams puts it, the message from DENR’s leadership, stripped of its customer service code words, was: ‘Stop investigating, stop enforcing and just be someone out there holding a hand.’ Read More

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Coal ash spillIn case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out reporter Trip Gabriel’s excellent story in the New York Times about how the recent Dan River coal ash spill has served to expose the ways in which the McCrory administration has “defanged” the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Here’s how it begins:

“Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.

‘The General Assembly doesn’t like you,’ an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. ‘They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.’

From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. ‘If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.’”

Read the rest of Gabriel’s sobering story by clicking here.