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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:
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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.

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(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
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Subpoenas released today by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resouces show that 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 across the state,  and has identified individuals whose testimony it is requiring before the grand jury on March 18-20.

The subpoena expanding the investigation, dated yesterday, appears below:

By  subpoenas dated Feb. 11 (see below) and directed to a number of individuals, the U.S. Attorney is seeking both testimony before the  grand jury and documents each individual may have, including documents regarding anything of value each may have received from Duke Energy and Progress Energy since 2009.

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John SkvarlaRaleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that North Carolina DENR Secretary John Skvarla “bristled” yesterday at questions about his agency’s relationship with Duke Energy and the non-clean-up of coal ash ponds and dumps that the two parties have overseen.  This seems like an accurate description — Skvarla seemed visibly agitated in his testimony before the Environmental Review Commission — and not terribly surprising for a man whose agency was served with subpoenas in federal criminal investigation.

While perhaps understandable for a man in Skvarla’s predicament, it’s difficult to see, however, just how lashing out at critics is going to change things for him anytime soon. When you’ve premised 13 months of leadership Read More

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Coal ashStuck inside with nowhere to go on a wintry day? We’ve got lots of information for you to get fully up to speed on Duke’s Dan River coal ash disaster today.

First is Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey’s excellent new story on the legal reverberations from the disaster and the new North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ wimpy approach to enforcement.

Second is yesterday’s Weekly Briefing which argues that the disaster is just the tip of a very big and dangerous iceberg of environmental neglect in North Carolina.

Third is the announcement of new Crucial Conversation luncheon on the subject featuring Appalachian Voices advocate Amy Adams and State Rep. Pricey Harrison. The event is scheduled for two weeks from today. Get more details and register by clicking here.

Finally,  be sure to check out the latest editorial on the subject from the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Duke Energy, legislature must remove environmental threat.” As the authors note: Read More