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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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Coal AshLest anyone have the impression that the coal ash clean-up plan adopted in the Senate yesterday takes care of all of the problems and inadequacies in the Governor’s proposal, be sure to check out this list compiled by the experts at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Though certainly an improvement (the Sierra Club calls it “a good job of setting out a clear timeline for coal ash clean up”), the Senate plan still leaves more than a quarter of the state’s population unprotected. As the SELC folks report:

“The current N.C. Senate Coal Ash Bill would leave at risk about 2.6 million people who rely on drinking water intakes downstream from ten leaking Duke Energy coal ash sites not required to be cleaned up under the bill. These ten leaking coal ash sites are contaminating groundwater, rivers and lakes near communities across North Carolina.

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Electric carWho says there’s no good news out there? A new, fascinating and encouraging report from the good people at Environment North Carolina extols the benefits of the growing movement toward electric-powered cars. This is from a release that accompanied the report:

“The report, “Driving Cleaner: More Electric Vehicles Mean Less Pollution,” shows that electric vehicles could prevent more than 401,000 metric tons of climate-changing carbon pollution annually in North Carolina by 2025. That’s the equivalent of saving more than 45,122,000 gallons of gasoline per year, or eliminating tailpipe pollution from 84,000 of today’s cars and trucks.

Electric cars are cleaner than vehicles that run on oil, even when charged with coal-fired power, according to the Environment North Carolina report. That’s because electric motors are much more efficient than the internal combustion engine. And as our electricity system incorporates more wind, solar and other forms of zero-emission energy, electric cars will only get cleaner. Ultimately, an electric vehicle charged completely with wind or solar power can operate with little to no impact on public health or contribution to global warming.

With new advanced cars – whether a plug-in hybrid model like the Chevy Volt, or a fully electric model like the Nissan Leaf, or the Tesla Model-S – Americans can travel increasingly longer distances on electricity alone.”

The report goes on to make several specific policy recommendations for North Carolina that could abet the shift, including: Read More

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Dean BakerEconomist extraordinaire Dean Baker has a great post on The Guardian this morning about conservative ideologues and their stubborn (but gradually failing) defense of “climate denialism.”

As Baker notes, the right likes to pretend that it’s all about rugged individualism and curbing “entitlements” but a closer look at the facts often reveals a different reality. The Cliven Bundy case was a classic example as is the recent hullabaloo over President Obama’s new carbon reduction standards:

“The argument against taking steps to reduce carbon emissions is an argument that we have the right to impose the costs and risks on others without taking responsibility. It is essentially like arguing that I have the right to throw sewage on my neighbor’s lawn because I would find it inconvenient to build a proper sewage disposal system…. 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