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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.

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Coal ashTwo important bits of news on the coal ash front this afternoon:

#1  is this letter from attorney Frank Holleman of the Southern Environmental Law Center, which was sent to Gov. McCrory yesterday. It spells out in great detail where things stand, what the environmental advocates think needs to happen and expresses grave concerns about the consistently conflicting stories emanating from the  Governor’s office and that of his Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, John Skvarla (as well as Skvarla’s apparent continuing failure to grasp the basic facts of the situation).

#2: If you read Chris Fitzsimon’s Friday Follies this morning, you know that Skvarla has still made no real public announcement of a promised task force to examine the state’s gigantic coal ash “pond” problem. As Chris noted:

“And then there’s this interesting nugget from the blog Coal Ash Chronicles.  There is no mention at all on DENR’s website of the coal ash task force that DENR announced with some fanfare on February 11, nine days after the Dan River spill. Read More

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Hog industryThis is not a good time for the North Carolina environment or the humans whose health it so directly impacts. This is from advocates at the Waterkeeper Alliance and the N.C. Riverkeepers:

Waterkeepers Ask N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture to Take Action on Hog Deaths, and Urge Governor to Declare a State of Emergency
New Video Shows Potential Impact of PED Outbreak on Human Health

VIDEO: http://youtu.be/jKYuw9ynePw <http://youtu.be/jKYuw9ynePw>
PHOTOS: http://www.flickr.com/photos/waterkeeperalliance/sets/72157641279276173/ <http://www.flickr.com/photos/waterkeeperalliance/sets/72157641279276173/>

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA –Waterkeeper Alliance and North Carolina Riverkeepers today called on the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Steve Troxler, to take immediate action necessary to protect human health and the environment in response the swine industry’s handling of dead hogs resulting from the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus outbreak in North Carolina.  The groups ask Commissioner Troxler to immediately inform the public about the scope of the problem and human health risks associated with improper handling and disposal of infected hog carcasses, and to take responsibility for ensuring that the massive hog mortality will be safely managed by the swine industry and supervised by the State.  Read More

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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

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North Carolina’s natural environment has been inundated with a lot of poison in recent days — so much, in fact, that a lot of folks may have forgotten the fact that state leaders are pushing hard to inject a lot more poison into the ground and water in the coming years. Happily, one of the state’s most celebrated native sons is speaking out against it in an ad on behalf of the good folks at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Click below to watch it.

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