Commentary, News

Sierra Club calls for an end to failed “solar bee” project in Jordan Lake

As Chris Fitzsimon explained at some length earlier this month, the silly experiment by state environmental officials to clean up the Triangle’s Jordan Lake with over-sized eggbeaters known as “solar bees” has been the disastrous flop that anyone paying attention could have foreseen:

Solar bee“It is now indisputable that the mixers still in place aren’t doing anything about the algae problem, which makes sense when you think about it. As Mary McLean Asbill of the Southern Environmental Law Center told ABC11 News, “The pollution needs to be stopped before entering the lake. It is absurd to think you can remove the pollution from the lake without doing anything to stem the flow of it into the lake.”

It is absurd indeed, but that’s exactly what legislative leaders said would happen when they approved the no-bid contract with the company that makes the giant mixers that are supposed to miraculously stir the lake clean.

And their failure has cost more than just the several millions of dollars of taxpayer money that were wasted. The folly of the SolarBees means that the pollution in Jordan Lake has not been addressed and it’s the drinking water supply for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Now, environmental advocates are renewing their call to end the wasteful and destructive experiment. Yesterday, the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club called on the legislature’s Environmental Review Commission to demand action from the McCrory administration. This is the conclusion to the group’s letter:

“In light of the implications for water quality and taxpayers, we urge the ERC to, at a minimum, require DEQ to provide a status update on the report, along with the new timetable for review by the EMC and delivery to the legislature. We would also encourage the ERC to require DEQ to provide an explanation of any changes made to the originally published report.

Even without a formal presentation, the ERC would appear to now have adequate water quality monitoring data and in-depth analysis to show the ineffectiveness of the water mixers. We respectfully request the ERC to recommend that the NCGA end the SolarBee pilot project and allow full implementation of the Jordan Lake Rules. We also request that any taxpayer funds allocated to DEQ for the demonstration project be reallocated to the Jordan Lake nutrient management strategy developed by the Environmental Management Commission.

The ERC has an important role in protecting Jordan Lake as a safe drinking water source and ensuring that strategies to maintain Jordan Lake water quality are based on science. Thank you for your attention to this important water quality issue.”

Let’s hope that lawmakers are paying attention and that environmental advocates keep pressing their demands.

Commentary

McCrory issues laughable response to offshore drilling decision

As reported hNoDrillJpgere and many other places this morning, the Obama administration has, after lots of careful consideration, decided to listen to public opinion, science, economics and common sense and say “no” to offshore oil and gas drilling off the coast of North Carolina and other Atlantic states. This is a great victory for our state’s already endangered coastline.

Not surprisingly, however, Governor Pat McCrory is cranky about the decision. This is from a statement he issued a few minutes ago:

“President Obama’s total reversal can only be described as a special political favor to far-left activists that have no problem importing energy resources from countries hostile to the United States. What’s more troubling is the President is closing the door before he even knows what resources can be harnessed in an environmentally sound way. Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s deal could ultimately cost North Carolina thousands of new jobs and billions in needed revenue for schools, infrastructure, dredging and beach renourishment.”

A “favor to far-left activists,” huh? Uh, Governor, setting aside the absurdity of suggesting that a President in his last year of office is motivated by a desire to grant “favors” to “activists,” you might want to take note of the fact that your plan to drill right off of the North Carolina coast was opposed by more than 100 municipalities in North Carolina as well as scores of elected officials throughout the region, including loads of Republicans like Congressman Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford.

Commentary

Rep. Pricey Harrison: Coal ash is poisoning our democracy as well as our people

Pricey HarrisonIn case you missed it, North Carolina State Rep. Pricey Harrison of Guilford County has a great new essay up on the Huffington Post about the connections between North Carolina’s frightening coal ash mess and the state’s polluted, pay-to-play political culture.

This from “The Coal Ash Money Train — North Carolina’s Poisoned Democracy”:

“Normally, citizens could seek a remedy in the courts when state governments do not adequately regulate coal ash. Yet in North Carolina, that’s become increasingly difficult given the pay-to-play system that has replaced the innovative public financing program for judicial candidates – a program that Governor Pat McCrory eliminated in his first few months in office. Without public financing, judicial candidates must turn to deep-pocketed donors for the money needed to mount a successful campaign. Those private donors in turn may see favorable decisions in court.

We shouldn’t be surprised to find that Governor McCrory–a Duke executive for 28 years–has conveniently failed to enforce environmental regulations and is under federal investigation for doing so. Corporate polluters have spent big to elect legislators in North Carolina. We can expect that, when it comes to coal ash, Gov. McCrory will yield to his corporate ties and neglect to defend the health of North Carolinians, especially the poorest among us.

The Charlotte Observer recently editorialized on the state’s distorted regulatory focus, writing that the disaster in Flint is “a cautionary tale for public officials and the citizens they serve” and that it should “resonate in states like North Carolina, where the regulatory focus has too often shifted away from protecting residents to accommodating business and industry.” The state agencies that are supposed to protect our water have too often focused on satisfying industry.

It’s clear that when corporate dollars pervade the government systems built to protect the public, we can no longer count on government to do its job and look after its most vulnerable communities.”

Click here to read the entire post.

Commentary, News

The coal ash mess: Three “must reads” plus a powerful video

Coal ash clean upSeveral important items of note in the coal ash world this morning:

#1 – The Wilmington Star News reports that Duke Energy has begun moving with what one might describe as “all deliberate speed” (emphasis on deliberate) to remove more than seven million tons of coal ash from just one of its numerous dumps across the state — this one in New Hanover County. In the four-plus months since the removal commenced, 82,000 tons have been moved or roughly 1% of all that needs to come out. It is a testament to the massive nature of the problem and the absurd inaction by Duke and state regulators that things are this bad.

#2 -The Fayetteville Observer reports that the city of Sanford is treating coal ash liquid (“leachate”) in its wastewater treatment plant and then discharging it (along, potentially, with nasty heavy metals) into the Deep River — something that, understandably, worries some environmental advocates.

#3 – Meanwhile, Gov. Pat “Standing in the bathroom door” McCrory continues to mostly ignore the problem. This new and powerful video from the good folks at Progress NC features a woman who lives near a coal ash dump and must now live on bottled water — apparently in perpetuity.  Not surprisingly, the Guv hasn’t responded to her requests for a meeting.

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#4 – Finally, the League of Conservation Voters reports that NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) hearings on the handling of coal ash from Duke Energy’s multiple ash pits around the state begin tonight at simultaneous events in Asheville, Dallas (Gaston County), Eden (Rockingham County), and Wilmington. This is from the LCV’s Weekly Conservation Bulletin:

Each of the hearings begins at 6:00pm. Concerned members of the public are encouraged to attend. Those who wish to speak should show up early in order to sign up.

Citizen conservation groups are working to turn out concerned citizens at all the hearings, and are planning a news conference at 5:30pm at the Gaston County hearing site in the town of Dallas. Members of the concerned public are invited to appear for the advance news event as well. The Dallas hearing will particularly address the Riverbend Steam Station, and will be held in the Gaston College Myers Center Auditorium (201 Highway U.S. 321 South, Dallas, NC 28034).

The planned message from citizen conservationists will emphasize that all of Duke’s unlined, leaking coal ash sites across North Carolina are high risk and should be cleaned up by moving the toxic coal ash to dry, lined storage away from rivers and groundwater. The communities and people of our state deserve to have clean water, protected from the threat of toxic coal ash pollution.

None of the sites are in fact “low risk” and they cannot safely be capped and left in place to continuing seeping into our water supplies. More than 200 seeps from Duke’s coal ash pits collectively send about three million gallons a day into our waters. It is past time for DEQ to order swift cleanup of these continuing pollution sources.

The other three March 1 sites are

  • Asheville: AB Technical Community College Ferguson Auditorium, 340 Victoria Road, Asheville NC 28801
  • Eden: Eden Town Hall, 308 East Stadium Drive, Eden NC 27288
  • Wilmington: Cape Fear Community College, room N-202, 411 N. Front Street, Wilmington NC 28401.

Eleven additional hearings will follow in future weeks, between March 10 and March 29.

Commentary

Report: Solar power from big box store roofs could power seven million homes

Sometimes the answers to big problems are staring you right in the face. A powerful new report from the good folks at Environment North Carolina provides a classic example. This news release explains:

Solar power potential

Potential Solar PV Capacity on Big Box Stores and Shopping Centers, by State (Megawatts) – Image: Environment NC

Report: Big-box stores could save big, reduce pollution by going solar

Raleigh, NC- Big-box stores, grocery chains, and shopping centers in North Carolina could cut pollution and save $246 million dollars with rooftop solar, a new report said today.

The Environment North Carolina Research and Policy Center analysis, Solar on Superstores, found that Target, Home Depot, and other large retailers could avert 2.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually if they used all their available roof space for solar panels.

“Our report shows that rooftop solar on big box stores like Target is good for the environment, good for electricity consumers, and good for business,” said Dave Rogers, Environment North Carolina Director.

The report came as North Carolina continues to see the benefits of solar, including ranking 9th for solar jobs nationally last year.

“Solar offers any business owner the ability to lower their energy bills and hedge against unpredictable rising energy prices. The falling cost of the technology and renewable energy incentives have increased the attractiveness of these investments dramatically,” added Henry Dziuba, Senior VP Commercial and Industrial at Strata Solar. “In addition, the energy savings help to increase the businesses’ profitability as well as add value to our customer’s building at the same time, the system helps to reduce the impact of CO2 emissions both locally and globally.” Read more