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Coal AshThe North Carolina House passed a weakened version of the already inadequate Senate coal ash plan today and environmental experts quickly labeled the legislation as wholly inadequate.

Here’s the rather measured statement from the folks at the NC Sierra Club:

“After weeks of expectation and speculation, the House missed the opportunity to build on the Senate’s good start and to address key shortcomings in the legislation. Under Speaker Tillis’ leadership, the House failed to make the final set of changes needed to give North Carolinians the protection they deserve from Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash.

There are no clear requirements in this legislation to ensure it does what it’s intended to do: remove the threat of coal ash to all our waters, and all our communities.

Not only does the bill fail to add protections missing from the Senate version of the bill, but it appears to undermine a recent court ruling stemming from a citizen suit that would require Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of its groundwater contamination.

North Carolinians’ right to clean water has been under threat by coal ash for decades. As lawmakers try to settle their differences on this bill in conference committee, communities are counting on them to protect their families and water.”

Meanwhile, activists at NC WARN — which has battled Duke Energy for years over myriad issues — were even more pointed: Read More

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© Nell Redmond, Greenpeace

© Nell Redmond, Greenpeace

In a corporate “sustainability report,” Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said yesterday that her company needs to “a better job of safely managing our coal ash ponds.”

Uh, Earth to Lynn: That’s not gonna cut it. Duke doesn’t need to “manage” its ponds; it needs to get rid of them ASAP. As the experts at the Southern Environmental Law Center noted in this recent newsletter:

“The best option has always been to move the ash into dry, lined landfills away from water sources. Thanks to legal pressure from SELC, that’s just what major utilities in South Carolina have agreed to do. South Carolina Gas and Electric has already begun removing 2.4 million tons of coal ash from lagoons at its plant on the Wateree River. And in November, after months of litigation and negotiations, Santee Cooper committed to clean up 11 million tons of coal ash throughout its system.

Duke Energy should do the responsible thing and follow their lead. The state of North Carolina should immediately move to put in place clear, enforceable requirements to recycle coal ash or move it to lined landfills away from our waterways. To do otherwise is to ignore both the public will and the public good.”

Let’s hope citizens and advocacy groups keep up the pressure on Duke to stop stalling and start acting on the state’s coal ash crisis. In this vein hundreds of protesters will gather today for a large protest against Duke’s policies in downtown Charlotte. Click here and here for more information.

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The state Court of Appeals has upheld the Utilities Commission’s approval of the Duke – Progress Energy merger in 2012, per an opinion released this morning.

Writing for the court, Judge Douglas McCullough said:

Where it is evident that the Commission considered the potential costs and risks of the merger and weighed them against the anticipated benefits, and where there is substantial evidence supporting the Commission’s findings and conclusions, we will not second guess the Commission’s determination that the merger is justified by the public convenience and necessity. Thus, we affirm the Commission’s approval of the merger in the merger order.

Policy Watch will have more on the decision later this morning.

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Some giant corporations complain about and battle government. Others try to co-opt and corrupt it. In the case of Duke Energy, one gets the distinct impression that the ever-mushrooming Charlotte-based monopoly will simply absorb North Carolina state government at some point and turn it into its Raleigh branch.

Fortunately, some intrepid consumer advocates are still giving Duke heck for the heck it continually visits upon residential ratepayers and our ever-more-fragile natural environment. Here’s their press statement from earlier this week on the occasion of a public hearing in Charlotte (the actual Utilities Commission proceedings begin Monday July 8 here in Raleigh — be on the lookout for more information):

Broad Coalition of Ratepayers Calls for Rejection of Duke Energy Rate Hike
Rate case opposed for environmental, social justice and financial reasons

Charlotte, NC.  A broad coalition of organizations and dissatisfied ratepayers will gather this evening at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse to call on the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reject the proposed Duke Energy rate hike and a settlement proposed by the Commission’s Public Staff. The coalition’s opposition is based on environmental, social justice and financial reasons. Read More