Coal ash clean upIn a decision released late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Loretta C. Biggs denied Duke Energy’s request for a dismissal of the case filed by the Yadkin Riverkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance, seeking coal ash cleanup at the company’s Buck plant on the Yadkin River.

“The Court is unable to find that DENR was trying diligently or that its state enforcement action was calculated, in good faith, to require compliance with the [Clean Water] Act,” Biggs wrote in her decision.

“Accordingly, DENR’s state enforcement action does not bar the Riverkeepers from pursuing their Seep Claim and Hydrological Connection Claim in this citizen suit.”

Biggs added that agreements between DENR (now DEQ) and Duke Energy to stop investigation and enforcement in the pending state action evidenced a lack of due diligence on the part of the agency.

“DENR’s prosecution does not inspire confidence that its state court action will move expeditiously to a final resolution,” she wrote.

The judge also refused to stay the case, finding that further delay “has the potential to substantially harm the environment and the individuals who live near the Buck plant and draw their daily supply of water from allegedly contaminated wells.”

Instead, the groups will be able to proceed with all claims, including those related to unlawful coal ash seepage, prohibited leaks into the groundwater and river, and dam safety violations.

“This court ruling upholds citizens’ right to enforce the law against polluters like Duke Energy to protect clean water when DENR/DEQ fails to do so,” Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center representing the Riverkeepers, said in a statement.  “The court found that DENR/DEQ had not been diligently pursuing enforcement against Duke Energy’s still leaking coal ash. Instead, DENR/DEQ has been diligently protecting Duke Energy.”




[The title of this post has been updated to assuage the concerns of those who interpreted it as somehow heralding criticism of the the City of Raleigh.]

In case you missed it Sunday, the editorial page of the Greensboro News & Record did a great, if sobering, job of summing up the ongoing war on North Carolina’s natural environment that’s being waged by the state’s conservative political leadership.The editorial — “A toxic wish list,” begins this way:

“Don’t look now, but planet Earth is under attack. From Raleigh.

And resistance is futile. Or so it seems.”

After alluding to a 2013 bill by Greensboro’s Senator Trudy Wade that, amazingly, proposed to allow garbage trucks to spill more noxious liquid on the highways and byways of the state, the editorial puts it this way:

“But Wade’s bill was only the first drip in a noxious flood of legislation that followed from a GOP-controlled legislature that seems hell-bent on disintegrating protections against tainted water and filthy air. The list, contained in an omnibus bill, is as long as it is shortsighted.

One provision, pushed by Wade, would no longer require electronics companies to help defray the expense of recycling and disposing of discarded computers, televisions and other products that can create dangerous toxins in landfills.

Wade’s reasoning: The expense was too burdensome for those companies.

So, where, then would the additional costs logically shift? To the city and county governments that have established e-recycling drop-off programs. And ultimately to local taxpayers.

What’s the harm? Wade told the News & Record’s Taft Wireback. ‘It’s still banned from landfills.’ As if an electronics fairy comes and magically takes old e-junk away in the dead of night and leaves quarters.

Another pending change would allow construction nearer to streams.

Another would allow companies that turn themselves in for pollution not to be assessed penalties if they cooperate in clean-up efforts.

Another would force citizen groups that file lawsuits against state agencies on environmental issues to reimburse the state for attorney’s fees if the state wins in court. (In effect, it dares citizens to sue.)

Still another Read More


Here are a few more details on the latest outrageous and inaccurate broadside launched by the North Carolina chapter of the Koch brothers-funded group known as Americans for Prosperity. As was explained in this space yesterday, AFP made the absurd claim that North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard —  a modest law designed to help North Carolina begin to kick its heroin-like addiction to fossil fuels — “strangles” the “entire NC economy.” As pointed out here yesterday, this is simply untrue:

“Even if one conceded that the REPS somehow raises consumer electric bills in any significant way — something that is simply not true — North Carolina’s electric rates are currently below the national average.  This is true in all categories — residential, commercial industrial, transportation and overall.  Heck, North Carolina residential consumers pay less for electricity than Texans! North Carolina commercial and industrial consumers pay less than West Virginia businesses! Click here to review the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. How could such rates be ‘strangling’ the economy?”

Later in the day yesterday, AFP attempted to defend its outrageous claim by pointing in two tweets to a statement in a March 2015 report written by McCrory administration officials. Here’s the supposedly damning language:

“North Carolina remains the only state in the Southeast to have enacted a REPS. As a result of this geographic isolation, long-term energy prices may adversely impact economic growth and challenge recent improvements in employment in North Carolina.”

To which, all a sane person can say in response is: How in the world can that be interpreted as confirmation of the assertion that REPS “strangles” the economy? Earth to AFP: Check your Merriam-Webster. “May adversely impact” does not mean “strangles.”

Add to this the fact that the “may adversely effect” language represents one sentence in a sometimes misleading 36 page report with myriad observations and conclusions about REPS and energy generally AND that it was written by employees of the McCrory administration’s decimated and thoroughly cowed Department of Environment and Natural Resources AND that the actual facts on the ground show the price of electricity in North Carolina to be well below the national average AND that other analysis shows that REPS is actually saving consumers millions and it becomes evident that the AFP folks are just making stuff up.

The plain and simple fact of the matter is that renewable energy represents North Carolina’s future — both for its economy and its environment. And no amount of fossil fuel industry funded propaganda is going to change this reality.


In case you missed it, an editorial in this morning’s Fayetteville Observer rightfully blasted the state Senate’s latest outrageous effort to gut state environmental regulations:

Some cynics are calling it the “Off-The-Wall Act of 2015.” Others suggest a better title might be the “Polluter Protection Act.”

In both cases they’re right. And what happened to House Bill 765 last weekend is a textbook chapter in how North Carolina lawmakers regularly commit outrages under cover of darkness.

Please note that we are not making a partisan statement here. For years, Democrats sparked Republican howls when they slipped through Trojan horse legislation that completely changed the purpose and effect of a bill. The howling traded sides when Republicans took over the General Assembly and quickly adopted time-tested Democratic dirty tricks.

House Bill 765 was, until recently, a one-page bill regulating the transportation of gravel. Last weekend, in the Senate, it became a 54-page epic that deregulated everything from profanity on public highways to the minimum age for operating all-terrain vehicles.

The bill is particularly pernicious in giving a greener light to polluters. It unprotects some wetlands, weakens stormwater regulations, removes air-quality monitors across the state and eliminates a requirement for recycling computers and televisions.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.


DENRpicEver since Gov. Pat McCrory took office, the folks he’s put in charge of environmental protection have been doing pretty much whatever the state’s corporate polluters have demanded.  McCrory’s original DENR Secreatry John Skvarla did just about everything he could to turn the one-time watchdog into an industry lapdog.

Now, however, even McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources thinks the state Senate has gone too far with its latest “regulatory reform”  proposal. The Department has sent an illustrated 4,100 word letter to the Senate in which it explains why it cannot support the latest version of House Bill 765.

Laura Leslie of has some of the details in the letter in this story.

Of course, given the interest the Senate has displayed in the past for the positions of the Governor, it seems hard to imagine that the letter will have much impact in the near term. The best one can hope for, apparently, is that — as with so many other issues — the 95% conservative House will slightly modify the positions of the 110% conservative Senate or, better yet, that the gridlock and dysfunction that grips the GOP-dominated General Assembly will help to scuttle the entire proposal. Stay tuned. The bill is scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor tomorrow.

Click here to read the full DENR letter.

Click here to read a fact sheet on the bill from the genuine watchdogs at the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club.