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Coal ash clean upA day after yesterday’s disappointing but expected approval by Gov. McCrory of a new law to fast-track fracking in North Carolina, the General Assembly moves on to another critical environmental issue today — coal ash. The good folks at the Sierra Club issued the following statement about today’s 9:30 a.m. meeting:

“On Thursday, June 5, the Senate Committee on Agriculture/Environment/Natural Resources will discuss S 729, the Governor’s Coal Ash Action Plan. The plan, which drew widespread criticism for not going far enough when announced, has been referenced as a starting point by the Senate….

Public outcry for addressing our state’s coal ash crisis came immediately after 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River in Rockingham County on February 2. The spill, which was the third largest coal ash spill ever in the United States, put a spotlight on a threat that has existed for decades.
Duke operates 14 facilities in North Carolina with leaky unlined coal ash pits, located next to rivers and lakes, all of which are contaminating groundwater. 1.5 million North Carolinians rely on drinking water sources downstream of these leaking, toxic coal ash pits.

How to best remove the coal ash from unlined pits next to our waterways will likely be part of the discussion tomorrow as the legislature looks for ways to strengthen the Governor’s plan. Read More

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SmokestacksYesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling in favor of EPA regulation of cross-state air pollution from coal-fired power plants.  Today, one of North Carolina’s best-known and most respected environmental advocates celebrated the decision and the efforts of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in making the whole thing happen. This is from Molly Diggins, head of the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club:

“In 2002, North Carolina, with bipartisan support, passed the Clean Smokestacks Act, which directed the State of North Carolina to seek similar reductions from coal-fired power plants upwind to those the state was mandating from NC’s coal-fired power plants.

Using the Good Neighbor provisions of the Clean Air Act, Attorney General Roy Cooper asked the EPA to get reductions from upwind states that were impacting NC’s ability to have clean air, despite the stringent cleanup standards in Clean Smokestacks. The EPA responded with protections for states like North Carolina that are downwind of polluting states. But their action was challenged in court. Read More

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Jordan Lake – Photo credit: Wake Up Wake County

The North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club submitted comments today to the U.S. Army Corps of engineers about the idea of installing “solar bees” (i.e. big solar powered water mixers) to somehow clean up Jordan Lake rather than doing what’s really necessary. It’s worth your time to read.

 “April 4, 2014

Mr. Justin Bashaw, Biologist
Environmental Resources Section
US Army Corps of Engineers, Wilmington District
69 Darlington Avenue
Wilmington, NC 28403-1343

Re: NC Chapter Sierra Club Comment on the Environmental Assessment (EA) for “A Demonstration Project Showing the Impact of Floating In-Lake Long-Distance Circulators in B.E. Jordan Lake” dated March 2014.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the Environmental Assessment for the pilot project to place 36 floating water mixers in Jordan Lake. The NC Chapter of the Sierra Club urges the Army Corps to not grant a USACE real estate license to the North Carolina Division of Water Resources (NCDWR) for placement of circulators within the Morgan Creek and Haw River Arms of Jordan Lake.

Jordan Lake needs science-based solutions to control pollution, not water mixers. And we have the science-based rules that will, based on modeling projections, lead to a cleaner Jordan Lake. Read More

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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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From the North Carolina Sierra Club:

“Legislature ends session with Jordan Lake bills

Jordan Lake bills signal tough times ahead for troubled lake

RALEIGH – Early this morning, the Senate gave final approval to

SB 515, a measure to further delay the rules intended to clean up Jordan Lake. Jordan Lake is a drinking water supply for more than 300,000 people in the Triangle.  Over the three years of delay, more pollutants will run into the lake making it more expensive and difficult to clean up down the road.

“We have a plan in place to clean up Jordan Lake.” said  Molly Diggins, state director of the NC Sierra Club. “ But now lawmakers in Raleigh have needlessly delayed that plan. Instead, they are diverting more than a million dollars from other clean water projects to pay for a pilot project that will not address pollution flowing into the Lake.” Read More