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Coal AshThe North Carolina House passed a weakened version of the already inadequate Senate coal ash plan today and environmental experts quickly labeled the legislation as wholly inadequate.

Here’s the rather measured statement from the folks at the NC Sierra Club:

“After weeks of expectation and speculation, the House missed the opportunity to build on the Senate’s good start and to address key shortcomings in the legislation. Under Speaker Tillis’ leadership, the House failed to make the final set of changes needed to give North Carolinians the protection they deserve from Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash.

There are no clear requirements in this legislation to ensure it does what it’s intended to do: remove the threat of coal ash to all our waters, and all our communities.

Not only does the bill fail to add protections missing from the Senate version of the bill, but it appears to undermine a recent court ruling stemming from a citizen suit that would require Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of its groundwater contamination.

North Carolinians’ right to clean water has been under threat by coal ash for decades. As lawmakers try to settle their differences on this bill in conference committee, communities are counting on them to protect their families and water.”

Meanwhile, activists at NC WARN — which has battled Duke Energy for years over myriad issues — were even more pointed: Read More

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Before leaving for the July 4th holiday, the NC House is expected to give final approval Thursday to a revised plan to clean-up North Carolina’s coal ash sites.

The legislation would require Duke Energy to remove the ash from four high-risk sites by 2019. Low-risk ponds would be targeted for closure by 2029.  Critics note the bill also would create an avenue for Duke to extend those deadlines, with the approval of the from the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Rep. Nathan Baskerville sought to amend the bill making it clear any clean-up costs would fall on Duke Energy, not its customers.

“Growing up, I was always taught that if you break it, you buy it,” said the Vance County Democrat. “There’s no doubt about it, Duke has broken it and now they have to pay. Period.”

Baskerville’s amendment was tabled.

Carteret County Rep. Pat McElraft told her colleagues that the state should take a step back and accept much of the blame for the current crisis, having granted Duke the permits for locating the ash ponds.

Final approval in the House on Thursday will send the bill back to the Senate for concurrence. To hear part of Wednesday’s House debate, click below.  Watch the full session at WRAL.com.
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A Senate committee reviewed a coal ash clean-up bill yesterday and afterwards, the experts and advocates at the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club responded with a lukewarm review:

“NC Sierra Club Statement on the NC Senate’s Coal Ash Bill

RALEIGH – This afternoon the NC Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources held an information-only hearing on the Senate’s coal ash bill that takes the place of the Governor’s proposal.

Upon the Senate’s actions, Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director of the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

‘The Senate did well to create ambitious timelines for closure of coal ash pits in the state. However, closure standards with safeguards to ensure that coal ash is permanently separated from water are lacking in the bill.’

‘This bill lacks guidance Read More

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Coal ash clean upA day after yesterday’s disappointing but expected approval by Gov. McCrory of a new law to fast-track fracking in North Carolina, the General Assembly moves on to another critical environmental issue today — coal ash. The good folks at the Sierra Club issued the following statement about today’s 9:30 a.m. meeting:

“On Thursday, June 5, the Senate Committee on Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources will discuss S 729, the Governor’s Coal Ash Action Plan. The plan, which drew widespread criticism for not going far enough when announced, has been referenced as a starting point by the Senate….

Public outcry for addressing our state’s coal ash crisis came immediately after 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River in Rockingham County on February 2. The spill, which was the third largest coal ash spill ever in the United States, put a spotlight on a threat that has existed for decades.
Duke operates 14 facilities in North Carolina with leaky unlined coal ash pits, located next to rivers and lakes, all of which are contaminating groundwater. 1.5 million North Carolinians rely on drinking water sources downstream of these leaking, toxic coal ash pits.

How to best remove the coal ash from unlined pits next to our waterways will likely be part of the discussion tomorrow as the legislature looks for ways to strengthen the Governor’s plan. Read More

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© Nell Redmond, Greenpeace

© Nell Redmond, Greenpeace

In a corporate “sustainability report,” Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said yesterday that her company needs to “a better job of safely managing our coal ash ponds.”

Uh, Earth to Lynn: That’s not gonna cut it. Duke doesn’t need to “manage” its ponds; it needs to get rid of them ASAP. As the experts at the Southern Environmental Law Center noted in this recent newsletter:

“The best option has always been to move the ash into dry, lined landfills away from water sources. Thanks to legal pressure from SELC, that’s just what major utilities in South Carolina have agreed to do. South Carolina Gas and Electric has already begun removing 2.4 million tons of coal ash from lagoons at its plant on the Wateree River. And in November, after months of litigation and negotiations, Santee Cooper committed to clean up 11 million tons of coal ash throughout its system.

Duke Energy should do the responsible thing and follow their lead. The state of North Carolina should immediately move to put in place clear, enforceable requirements to recycle coal ash or move it to lined landfills away from our waterways. To do otherwise is to ignore both the public will and the public good.”

Let’s hope citizens and advocacy groups keep up the pressure on Duke to stop stalling and start acting on the state’s coal ash crisis. In this vein hundreds of protesters will gather today for a large protest against Duke’s policies in downtown Charlotte. Click here and here for more information.