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(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla presided over an hour-long press conference today in which he and some of his staff tried to put the best possible face on the ongoing Duke Energy coal ash disaster. WRAL.com will have a video of the entire event up online shortly.

While a fleet of journalists are still sifting through all of the statements and answers to their questions, it’s hard to see how Skvarla — whose main claim seemed to be that he’s been doing everything in his power on the coal ash issue, including, he said, partnering with environmental advocacy groups — helped himself very much.

The bottom line on the whole mess remains unchanged:

  1. There’s an ongoing environmental catastrophe in the state.
  2. The agency in charge of protecting the environment has been slashed and demoralized by the Governor and his Secretary.
  3. The Secretary has, contrary to his claims of “partnership,” Read More

A story in this morning’s Charlotte Observer makes the answer pretty obvious:

Duke Energy hit its 2013 earnings target on the strength of its merger with Progress Energy, higher customer rates and a strong finish to the year.

Profits of $2.7 billion for the year earned $3.76 a share, compared with the $1.8 billion and $3.07 a share in 2012, Duke said Tuesday.

Adjusted for one-time items, earnings were $4.35 a share, at the midpoint of Duke’s target range and ahead of analysts’ estimates. That’s up from $4.32 a year ago.”

Read the entire story by clicking here.

Coal ashThe event details were only finalized the day of the “snowpocalypse,” so you may have missed the announcement, but seats are already going fast for the next NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon: “Duke’s Dan River coal ash disaster: What happened? How big is the problem? What’s next?”

The event will feature two of the state’s leading experts on the subject: former state regulator Amy Adams of the group Appalachian Voices and current state lawmaker, Rep. Pricey Harrison. Don’t miss this chance to get up to speed on one of the biggest and most important stories in North Carolina thus far in 2014.

Click here for more information.

Amy Adams of the group Appalachian Voices and State Rep. Pricey Harrison – See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/02/12/crucial-conversation-dukes-dan-river-coal-ash-disaster-what-happened-how-big-is-the-problem-whats-next/#sthash.x6Eyyz0u.dpuf

Coal ashStuck inside with nowhere to go on a wintry day? We’ve got lots of information for you to get fully up to speed on Duke’s Dan River coal ash disaster today.

First is Courts and Law Reporter Sharon McCloskey’s excellent new story on the legal reverberations from the disaster and the new North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ wimpy approach to enforcement.

Second is yesterday’s Weekly Briefing which argues that the disaster is just the tip of a very big and dangerous iceberg of environmental neglect in North Carolina.

Third is the announcement of new Crucial Conversation luncheon on the subject featuring Appalachian Voices advocate Amy Adams and State Rep. Pricey Harrison. The event is scheduled for two weeks from today. Get more details and register by clicking here.

Finally,  be sure to check out the latest editorial on the subject from the Winston-Salem Journal entitled “Duke Energy, legislature must remove environmental threat.” As the authors note: Read More

Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill in North CarolinaWe’ve all been reading about the ugly environmental disaster unfolding in Eden at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River coal-burning plant.  As of this writing, the coal ash pond pipe has been plugged, but not before dumping more than 80,000 tons of waste into the Dan River.

Meanwhile in Washington, the US EPA is considering other options for getting rid of coal ash in the future – mixing it into cement and wallboard during manufacture.  Utilities face more stringent regulations at coal plants, so many support this approach, which is called “beneficial reuse.”

You can read more about the risks of mixing coal ash (which contains lead, arsenic, mercury and selenium) into consumer products from the Healthy Building Network here.  US EPA regulations will be released in December.