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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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Remember the $99,000 settlement the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources tried to push in the coal ash spill lawsuits, but then pulled from court consideration after the media exposed it as a sweetheart deal with Duke Energy?

That settlement — and then some — may be back on the table, according to a letter sent to Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway on February 20.

In that letter (below) DENR indicates that it may add other Duke Energy coal ash sites, including the Dan River plant, or propose other modifications to the settlement — a decision it expects to reach by March 21, 2014.

2014 02 20 Judge Ridgeway Ltr Re DENR’s Update on Consent Order for Stat by NC Policy Watch

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John SkvarlaIn recent days in the aftermath of the Duke Energy coal ash disaster, North Carolina DENR Secretary John Skvarla has taken to referring to environmental groups as “partners” of his agency in dealing with the coal ash problem. As we’ve reported on multiple occasions on this site, however, Skvarla has repeatedly used derogatory language to refer to environmental groups. Last year, he told the John Locke Foundation that we’d all be “wearing loincloths and living in lean-tos” if we followed the advice of environmental groups.

Last night, the Winston-Salem Journal reported additional examples of Skvarla speaking ill of his “partners”: Read More

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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
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John SkvarlaRaleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that North Carolina DENR Secretary John Skvarla “bristled” yesterday at questions about his agency’s relationship with Duke Energy and the non-clean-up of coal ash ponds and dumps that the two parties have overseen.  This seems like an accurate description — Skvarla seemed visibly agitated in his testimony before the Environmental Review Commission — and not terribly surprising for a man whose agency was served with subpoenas in federal criminal investigation.

While perhaps understandable for a man in Skvarla’s predicament, it’s difficult to see, however, just how lashing out at critics is going to change things for him anytime soon. When you’ve premised 13 months of leadership Read More