Commentary

Yet another report indicates that “solar bees” are a flop

More bad news for conservative politicians and bureaucrats doing everything in their power to avoid/delay the costly but essential clean-up of the Triangle’s Jordan Lake: yet another study has found the much-heralded plan to improve water quality with big eggbeaters known as “solar bees” to have been a big, fat failure.

This is from the newest report from the Department of Environmental Quality, “Survey of In Situ Strategies for Mitigation of Water Quality Impairments in North Carolina”:

“After reviewing the available scientific evidence, no single in situ technology or combination of technologies appears to be feasible for restoring North Carolina’s large waterbodies, including the piedmont reservoirs and estuaries subject to nutrient management strategies. A comprehensive, adaptive, and science-based approach to reducing nutrient inputs to the watershed remains the most viable option for recovering these waterbodies from impairment. Based on available information, in situ strategies may be able to serve some adjunct role to watershed controls, but the dearth of trials for such technologies at large scales makes this possibility virtually hypothetical at this point.”

That’s a fancy, executive summary way of saying the eggbeaters don’t work. Here’s more from later in the report:

“Monitoring data from this study indicates no significant change in water quality from areas where the machines are placed in impaired areas versus control sites, or from historical versus project area data (Division of Water Resources, 2015). Utilization of this measure in NC reservoirs does not appear to be effective as they do not have the ability to overcome the normal productivity of high nutrient systems. These create aesthetic issues as they float on the surface of the water, and are continually visible. They have the potential to create other user conflicts such as hazards to boating due to the density and amount of machines required to circulate large open waterbodies (sic).”

As you will recall, a report last fall already reported similar results.

The bottom line, as Mary MacLean Asbill of the Southern Environmental law Center told ABC 11’s Jon Camp:

“The report indicates that there has no progress in cleaning up Jordon Lake. There’s been no reduction in the nutrients which is the problem the SolarBees were purported to address. The pollution needs to be stopped before entering the lake. It is absurd to think you can remove the pollution from the lake without doing anything to stem the flow of it into the lake. The measures need to be taken in the beginning rather than the end.”

Hopefully, state lawmakers and the McCrory administration will now, finally, get off their duffs and get to work halting the pollution that’s flowing into the lake. Sadly, however, more stalling and excuse making for polluters seems just as likely.

Commentary

It’s McCrory’s coal ash now, but the signs about what he’ll do with it aren’t encouraging

Coal ashThe Greensboro News & Record has a good editorial this morning in which it lauds the state Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the General Assembly’s overreach in its turf battle with the Governor over control of the state coal ash commission.

But the editorial concludes with this warning to the Guv:

“It’s the governor’s responsibility. Now he’s got to prove that legislators of his own party were wrong to distrust him with this important task.”

News

Groups ask the court to overturn latest coal ash “sweetheart” deal

Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill in North CarolinaIn just a little over a year, from lawsuit to settlement in 2012, citizen and conservation groups in South Carolina pushed South Carolina Electric & Gas to begin cleaning up coal ash contamination at its sites there.

State environmental regulators stayed out and the utility stepped up, coming up with a plan to remove the ash from lagoons and either re-use it if possible or move it to lined storage elsewhere.

Other utilities there — including Duke Energy — likewise agreed later to do the same and have thus far removed more than a million tons of ash.

Compare that to what’s happened here since 2012. In October of that year, environmental groups asked the  state’s Environmental Management Commission for a ruling on how groundwater contaminations rules applied to coal ash sites here, and prepared for lawsuits against the company for contamination at its Asheville and Riverbend plants.

But unlike what happened in South Carolina, the state here stepped in at the last minute and the utility pushed back. Now, three years and a catastrophic coal ash spill later, those groups are still battling the state and Duke Energy over coal ash management. Instead of clean up, what they’ve gotten is delay, denial and diminution of the company’s obligations.

The September settlement between Duke Energy and the newly-rebranded Department of Environmental Quality, allowing Duke to pay a $7 million fine for groundwater pollution at all 14 of its coal ash sites here, is just the latest chapter in that saga.

That fine is a far cry from the $25 million DEQ had previously imposed on Duke for violations just at the Sutton Steam Plant near Wilmington. Duke subsequently appealed that fine, but then reached a global settlement with the state settling all claims and cases involving all its coal ash plants here.

The agreement also requires no cleanup commitments from Duke beyond what the company has already agreed to do, which involves removal of the ash at only a few plants.

Yesterday the groups filed a lawsuit asking the court to set aside that settlement.

“This latest sweetheart settlement shows what happens when Duke Energy and state bureaucrats get in a room together without public scrutiny,” said Frank Holleman, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center representing the groups.

“Citizen action has produced cleanup commitments at seven dangerous, polluting coal ash sites in North Carolina so far, in spite of the state and Duke trying for years to block citizens from protecting our rivers, lakes, and drinking water. That’s why we are asking the court to ensure those efforts can continue.”

Read the new complaint here.

Commentary

RSVP today for luncheon on offshore drilling

Please join us for a very special Crucial Conversation luncheon in Raleigh on Tuesday, April 7:

Can this coastline be saved? Offshore drilling and what it will likely mean for North Carolina’s beaches and wetlands
Click here to register

Recently, the U.S. Department of the Interior released a draft five-year plan that would make the Mid- and South Atlantic coasts available to oil and gas leasing starting in 2017. This represents a significant shift in federal policy, as there have never been any producing oil or gas wells drilled off the ecologically rich coastlines of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Offshore drilling could threaten the economic livelihood of the coastal communities that rely on healthy waters and clean beaches to support local tourism and fishing industries. It could also damage barrier islands and marsh ecosystems, as well as sensitive wetlands that provide drinking water and hurricane protection to nearby communities.

NCPW-CC-2015-04-07-sierra_weaver

Join us as we explore this controversial “sea change” with one of the state’s leading experts on the topic, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Sierra Weaver. Attendees will have a chance to get fully up to speed on the rush to drill and learn what will come next after the initial March 30 comment period and how to stay engaged in the issue.

Don’t miss the chance to learn more about this important issue at this critical juncture.

Note: If you’d like to comment by the March 30 deadline, go to http://regulations.gov, type “Docket ID: Boem-2014-0085? into the “search” tab and click on the “Comment Now!” button. You can also click here to check out information from the NC Coastal Federation Facebook page.

When: Tuesday, April 7, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Where the big-time pollution threat lurks in NC

Offshore oil platformThe debate over fracking in North Carolina and the threat it poses to the long-term well-being of humans and the environment in certain parts of the state is obviously hugely important. But there’s a strong argument to be made that the threat from offshore oil and gas drilling is significantly larger and more worrisome.

Not only would offshore drilling and the potential for oil spills put thousands of miles of coastline, our wonderful beaches and estuaries and the fragile marine ecology of of our Outer Continental Shelf at perpetual risk, it would pose enormous threats to the overall way of life of the state’s coastal communities. Put simply: Do we really want to turn the North Carolina coast into Louisiana?

If you share some or all of these concerns, there are two things to do:

#1 – Consider submitting comments to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management by Next Monday March 30. The good folks at the N.C. Coastal Federation have an “how to” here and here.

#2 – Attend the upcoming Crucial Conversation luncheon with expert Sierra Weaver of the Southern Environmental Law Center. Here are the details:

When: Tuesday, April 7, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here for parking info.

Space is limited – preregistration required.

Cost: $10, admission includes a box lunch.

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com