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The state Court of Appeals has upheld the Utilities Commission’s approval of the Duke – Progress Energy merger in 2012, per an opinion released this morning.

Writing for the court, Judge Douglas McCullough said:

Where it is evident that the Commission considered the potential costs and risks of the merger and weighed them against the anticipated benefits, and where there is substantial evidence supporting the Commission’s findings and conclusions, we will not second guess the Commission’s determination that the merger is justified by the public convenience and necessity. Thus, we affirm the Commission’s approval of the merger in the merger order.

Policy Watch will have more on the decision later this morning.

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.

Some seats still remain for tomorrow’s NC Policy watch Crucial Conversation luncheon: Duke’s Dan River coal ash disaster: What happened? How big is the problem? What’s next?

Featuring Amy Adams of the group Appalachian Voices and State Rep. Pricey Harrison

When: Thursday, February 27 at 12 noon – Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: *(NOTE—NEW LOCATION)* The North Carolina Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St. in Raleigh. This location feature on-site parking.

Space is limited – pre-registration required.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Kay HaganAs part of announcing her candidacy for reelection yesterday, Senator Kay Hagan weighed in on the ongoing Duke Energy coal ash disaster that continues to unfold just a few miles down the road from her Greensboro home. You would have thought it would have been a moment on which the embattled Senator would have seized in order to pillory her Republican critics. Heck, it’s not that hard to envision a scenario in which she would have announced her campaign wearing waders in some Dan River muck!

Here’s what she said, instead, about the coal ash crisis as reported by WRAL.com:

“We’ve got to have oversight on the handling, the disposal and the storage of coal ash. When you think that just a broken pipe has caused this amount of leakage, and we know that we have 36 coal ash ponds in North Carolina, it is a serious issue, and we need to study it.”

I’m sorry, Senator. Did you say we need to study the matter? Study??!!

Earth to Kay Hagan: We know what to do about this problem. It’s already being done in South Carolina for Pete’s sake!  North Carolina doesn’t need more study; it needs immediate action and leadership from public officials who care more about the people and environment of the state than the big money campaign contributions of Duke Energy.

One would have thought that a veteran politician like Senator Hagan — someone who’s been in public office for 15 years — would have at least grasped the politics of the current situation (even if the science and policy matters escaped her). Unfortunately (and quite amazingly), this does not appear to be the case.

Pat McCrory 4Northeast North Carolina’s paper of record, the Virginian-Pilot, is calling on federal investigators to ask Gov. McCrory directly what he knew, when he knew it and what he did about the Duke coal ash disaster:

“DENR Secretary John Skvarla briefed McCrory – who worked for Duke Energy for nearly 30 years and owns stock in the company – about those lawsuits.

Skvarla testified before lawmakers that McCrory told him two things: ‘He said protect the environment, and do the right thing.’

Instead, Skvarla negotiated a $99,111 settlement with the $50 billion company. Read More