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Fiery Esquire journalist Charles Pierce weighed in on the Duke coal ash mess yesterday afternoon in this column and, as you can see, he pulled no punches:

“There’s a lot of very weird stuff going on in the newly insane state of North Carolina. The state has a problem with coal ash, and with its groundwater, and with the reluctance of Duke Energy to clean up, among other things, the 39,000 fking [tons*] of the gunk that it spilled into the Dan River in February. The state’s Environmental Management Commission decided that Duke Energy needed a “reasonable amount of time” to correct the groundwater violations. (As should be obvious, you could sail a coal barge through that adjective there.) A Superior Court judge said to hell with that noise and reversed the commission’s findings, demanding that the clean-up begin immediately.

And you will never guess what the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission did.

No, really, you will never guess.

Give up?

They appealed the judge’s ruling.

Told you that you wouldn’t believe it.

Read the rest of Pierce’s column by clicking here.

*… Pierce’s column understated this figure as 39,000 pounds.

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

The parties in the civil enforcement cases against Duke Energy for coal ash clean up at the company’s Asheville and Riverbend plants will be back in court tomorrow battling over whether Duke Energy can claim the pending criminal grand jury proceedings as a reason to delay releasing information sought in the civil context.

The organizations originally seeking to require clean-up at those plants until the state stepped in and filed suit — now intervenors in the lawsuits — argue that the pending grand jury proceedings should have no impact on the company’s obligations to produce evidence in the civil cases and expedite compliance and clean-up at the plants at issue.

The secrecy afforded grand jury proceedings relates to the identity of witnesses, the substance of their testimony and the deliberations of grand jurors, not to facts and information otherwise discoverable in a civil lawsuit, the groups argued in papers filed with the court last night.

“This civil enforcement has been underway more than a year, since March 26, 2013, when the foundation gave DENR and [Duke Energy] notice of its intent to enforce the Clean Water Act to require a clean-up of defendant’s illegal pollution of Mountain Island Lake,” the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation said in its papers filed with the court. “Since that time there has been a remarkable series of efforts to delay the enforcement of anti-pollution laws against Defendant’s illegal pollution at Mountain Island Lake.”

The Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance and Western North Carolina Alliance, now intervenors in the case concerning the Ashevile plant, made similar arguments in opposition to Duke Energy’s request in their brief filed with the court.

A hearing on this issue is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow in either Raleigh or Henderson, N.C., depending on the status of jury deliberations at the end of today in another case before the court.

In case you missed it, a Sunday editorial in the Greensboro News & Record told it like it is when it comes to the matter of corporate taxes in North Carolina. It was entitled “Next to nothing.”

“What’s less than a lower corporate income-tax rate? What some businesses actually pay.

North Carolina legislators cut the state’s corporate income-tax rate last year from 6.9 percent to 6 percent. It’s scheduled to drop to 5 percent next year.

Republican lawmakers said the cut was needed to create a better business climate and make the state more competitive with its neighbors. Yet, cutting the rate to 5 percent isn’t very meaningful to a corporation that pays barely more than 1 percent.

Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, paid an average of 1.3 percent of North Carolina profits in state corporate income tax from 2008 through 2012, according to a study released last week by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. Read More

Here’s the latest in the civil court case involving Duke Energy and the clean-up of coal-ash ponds. Click here for background on the case.

Wake Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway denied a request Thursday from the utility company to delay a previous order to start immediately dealing with contamination from coal-ash ponds Duke maintains around the state.

Duke had asked that the clean-up be delayed while it appealed Ridgeway’s decision earlier this month to order Duke to take immediate action to stop contamination by coal-ash ponds. Today’s order means that Duke must be forward with plans to clean up the ponds.

Below are copies of Ridgeway’s order, as well a motion from environmental groups asking that the stay be denied.

 

Duke Stay Coal Ash by NC Policy Watch

 

 

Enviro Objection Stay by NC Policy Watch