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Coal ashTwo important bits of news on the coal ash front this afternoon:

#1  is this letter from attorney Frank Holleman of the Southern Environmental Law Center, which was sent to Gov. McCrory yesterday. It spells out in great detail where things stand, what the environmental advocates think needs to happen and expresses grave concerns about the consistently conflicting stories emanating from the  Governor’s office and that of his Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, John Skvarla (as well as Skvarla’s apparent continuing failure to grasp the basic facts of the situation).

#2: If you read Chris Fitzsimon’s Friday Follies this morning, you know that Skvarla has still made no real public announcement of a promised task force to examine the state’s gigantic coal ash “pond” problem. As Chris noted:

“And then there’s this interesting nugget from the blog Coal Ash Chronicles.  There is no mention at all on DENR’s website of the coal ash task force that DENR announced with some fanfare on February 11, nine days after the Dan River spill. Read More

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

John SkvarlaIn recent days in the aftermath of the Duke Energy coal ash disaster, North Carolina DENR Secretary John Skvarla has taken to referring to environmental groups as “partners” of his agency in dealing with the coal ash problem. As we’ve reported on multiple occasions on this site, however, Skvarla has repeatedly used derogatory language to refer to environmental groups. Last year, he told the John Locke Foundation that we’d all be “wearing loincloths and living in lean-tos” if we followed the advice of environmental groups.

Last night, the Winston-Salem Journal reported additional examples of Skvarla speaking ill of his “partners”: Read More

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency hold a community briefing in Eden this evening, providing residents with the latest information on water quality following the massive coal ash spill into the Dan River.

Tonight’s meeting comes just hours after John Skvarla, Secretary for the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) defended his agency’s handling of Duke Energy’s coal ash disaster.

Skvarla told reporters that environmentalists who have criticized the department in recent days don’t have all the facts:

“It had become very clear … their desired outcome was what I call one size fits all,” Skvarla said. “The only acceptable remedy was dig them up, move them to lined landfills and cover them. … I can assure you it’s not that simple.”

The hour-long press briefing did little to quiet the controversy. The U.S. Attorney in Raleigh is expanding its criminal investigation of the coal ash spill at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant to include spills at other company plants.

The North Carolina Conservation Network is urging legislators and the Governor to pass legislation this year that would bring an end to the unsafe storage of coal ash.

Grady McCallie with the Conservation Network joins us this week on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the the massive coal ash spill on the Dan River and DENR’s efforts to hold Duke Energy accountable. For a preview of their interview, click below:
YouTube Preview Image

Tonight’s community briefing in Eden will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Eden City Hall Council Chambers, 308 E. Stadium Drive

There will also be a second community briefing for South Boston, VA on Thursday, February 20th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Washington Coleman Community Center, 1927 Jeffress Blvd.

(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla presided over an hour-long press conference today in which he and some of his staff tried to put the best possible face on the ongoing Duke Energy coal ash disaster. WRAL.com will have a video of the entire event up online shortly.

While a fleet of journalists are still sifting through all of the statements and answers to their questions, it’s hard to see how Skvarla — whose main claim seemed to be that he’s been doing everything in his power on the coal ash issue, including, he said, partnering with environmental advocacy groups — helped himself very much.

The bottom line on the whole mess remains unchanged:

  1. There’s an ongoing environmental catastrophe in the state.
  2. The agency in charge of protecting the environment has been slashed and demoralized by the Governor and his Secretary.
  3. The Secretary has, contrary to his claims of “partnership,” Read More