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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

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Sometimes, you just can’t make this stuff up.

Reporter Tyler Dukes of WRAL.com has a story this morning about how developers are pushing hard from “reform” legislation that would further decimate North Carolina’s already rapidly disappearing wetlands. As Dukes reports:

“A proposal to roll back environmental rules long loathed by developers would remove protections for critical amphibian nurseries sprinkled across the state, environmental advocates say.

The General Assembly’s 60-page regulatory reform package, approved by the state Senate last week, affects so-called isolated wetlands, tiny plots of land disconnected from other waterways. Environmentalists say the habitats serve a vital function for wildlife and pollution control, especially farther from the coast, where other types of wetlands are more rare.”

But here’s the kicker — check out the response of state Home Builders Association lobbyist Lisa Martin:

There aren’t many isolated wetlands that are worth keeping. This has nothing to do with swampy, marshy, boggy, wetlands most people think of when they think of wetlands.” (Emphasis supplied.)
Gee, thanks, Lisa. We can’t think of anyone we’d trust more to issue the definitive assessment on which wetlands are “worth keeping.”