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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.

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For those who missed this week’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation with Appalachian Voices’ Amy Adams and State Rep. Pricey Harrison, the full program is now available online.

Please watch and then share – Duke’s Dan River coal ash disaster: What happened? How big is the problem? What’s next? – See more at: YouTube Preview Image

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Remember the $99,000 settlement the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources tried to push in the coal ash spill lawsuits, but then pulled from court consideration after the media exposed it as a sweetheart deal with Duke Energy?

That settlement — and then some — may be back on the table, according to a letter sent to Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway on February 20.

In that letter (below) DENR indicates that it may add other Duke Energy coal ash sites, including the Dan River plant, or propose other modifications to the settlement — a decision it expects to reach by March 21, 2014.

2014 02 20 Judge Ridgeway Ltr Re DENR’s Update on Consent Order for Stat by NC Policy Watch

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Kay HaganAs part of announcing her candidacy for reelection yesterday, Senator Kay Hagan weighed in on the ongoing Duke Energy coal ash disaster that continues to unfold just a few miles down the road from her Greensboro home. You would have thought it would have been a moment on which the embattled Senator would have seized in order to pillory her Republican critics. Heck, it’s not that hard to envision a scenario in which she would have announced her campaign wearing waders in some Dan River muck!

Here’s what she said, instead, about the coal ash crisis as reported by WRAL.com:

“We’ve got to have oversight on the handling, the disposal and the storage of coal ash. When you think that just a broken pipe has caused this amount of leakage, and we know that we have 36 coal ash ponds in North Carolina, it is a serious issue, and we need to study it.”

I’m sorry, Senator. Did you say we need to study the matter? Study??!!

Earth to Kay Hagan: We know what to do about this problem. It’s already being done in South Carolina for Pete’s sake!  North Carolina doesn’t need more study; it needs immediate action and leadership from public officials who care more about the people and environment of the state than the big money campaign contributions of Duke Energy.

One would have thought that a veteran politician like Senator Hagan — someone who’s been in public office for 15 years — would have at least grasped the politics of the current situation (even if the science and policy matters escaped her). Unfortunately (and quite amazingly), this does not appear to be the case.

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Pat McCrory 4Northeast North Carolina’s paper of record, the Virginian-Pilot, is calling on federal investigators to ask Gov. McCrory directly what he knew, when he knew it and what he did about the Duke coal ash disaster:

“DENR Secretary John Skvarla briefed McCrory – who worked for Duke Energy for nearly 30 years and owns stock in the company – about those lawsuits.

Skvarla testified before lawmakers that McCrory told him two things: ‘He said protect the environment, and do the right thing.’

Instead, Skvarla negotiated a $99,111 settlement with the $50 billion company. Read More