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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.

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