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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

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Coal ashThis week’s top laugh-out-loud headline comes directly from the office of Governor McCrory, which had the chutzpah to send out a news release yesterday afternoon with the following headline: “Governor McCrory Directs Duke Energy to Bring Coal Ash Spill Under Control.”

What? The Duke people hadn’t considered doing this during the four days since the spill commenced? And now that their former mid-level P.R. staffer has gotten around to speaking out, they’re going to act? Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Governor McCrory: How about issuing a directive that might actually have an impact — something like telling your DENR Secretary to stop eviscerating his department and its mission and telling your buddies over at the General Assembly that you’re no longer going to be a party to their ongoing efforts to sell, develop, pave, frack and poison every square inch of land, every gallon of water and every breath of fresh air in our rapidly deteriorating natural environment?

For more info on the Dan River disaster check out this slide show from the good folks at the N.C. Conservation Network.

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Frank Tursi at the Coastal Federation posted a remarkable story yesterday that shines a light on two of the McCrory administration’s favorite practices: 1) turning down federal money that would promote the common good (and thereby sending it off to other states) and 2) sticking its head in the sand when it comes to our ever-more fragile natural environment. This is from the story:

“RALEIGH – Saying they don’t need the money to meet their new mission, state environmental officials recently turned down almost $600,000 in federal grants. The money would have been used to set up a network of sites to begin testing streams in the Piedmont where natural gas production is likely to occur and to establish a long-term planning and monitoring program to protect wetlands. Read More

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In case you missed it, a 25-year employee of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) tendered her resignation recently in a very public fashion. As reported by WRAL.com, Susan Wilson packaged her resignation in a scathing and courageous letter that blasted DENR Secretary John Skvarla and the McCrory administration for dismantling of the Department’s Division of Water Quality. Among other things, the letter included the following barbs:

“I was a good regulator – I had a bit of distrust for both sides of the aisle – which made me regulate evenly and with common sense and fair judgment. Over the past 24 years I’ve had the privilege to have worked with some of the most intelligent, articulate, and respected environmental scientists and engineers – I’d put them up against my friends in the private sector any day of the week. But the disdain for them (and me) by this administration is too much to bear….

I’m all about customer service (as the majority of employees in DWQ are, and have always been), but that just seems to be a smokescreen for a very extremist republican agenda.

Likely there will be some uptick in the business environment in the next few years (mainly because the economy has started to recover from the disaster your friends on Wall Street created). But when the hot summers and the drought years come back, and we get fish kills again, and maybe there’s fracking going on in the sandhills – it will be the fine folks at DENR who will get blamed for the chaos. The politicians and their appointees, that did the dismantling and created the chaos, will be long gone. We know the drill.”

Good for Wilson. And good for her reference to “customer service’ — a phrase that’s bandied about at every opportunity by the administration, but that’s never adequately defined. Read More

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John SkvarlaAt a Monday’s Locke Foundation “Shaftsbury Society” lunch, North Carolina’s Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla made a rather remarkable claim that you can watch in the two-minute highlight video posted here.

Skvarla claimed that his department (and, by implication, the McCrory administration) is not changing or relaxing environmental rules and regulations, but just working harder to help businesses negotiate the bureaucracy. If that’s so, it must mean that the Secretary will be working hard to secure a veto of some controversial bills currently pending on Gov. McCrory’s desk that would do just that.

For example, House Bill 74 would, according to the N. C. Conservation Network: Read More