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Coal AshAt least two stories on the entity that seems to be fast becoming North Carolina’s Public Enemy #1 (Duke Energy) are worth your time this morning if you didn’t catch them last night.

First is this AP story about how Duke lobbyists undermined the efforts of environmental advocates last year by getting friendly legislators to slip a provision into an omnibus deregulation bill that did their bidding on coal ash regulations:

“Documents and interviews collected by The Associated Press show how Duke’s lobbyists prodded Republican legislators to tuck a 330-word provision in a regulatory reform bill running nearly 60 single-spaced pages.

Though the bill never once mentions coal ash, the change allowed Duke to avoid any costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from its unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes and the drinking wells of nearby homeowners….”

Second is this WRAL.com story about Duke pumping coal ash into a stream that leads to the Cape Fear River:

“Advocates with the Waterkeeper Alliance say pictures they released Monday of workers for Duke Energy pumping water from a coal ash pond into a stream that feeds the Cape Fear River shows the company violating state and federal clean water rules.

Duke officials don’t dispute they were pumping the water, but they say they were allowed to do so for maintenance work under current permits for the pond, which is at a retired power plant in Moncure.

‘To label the secret, unmitigated, intentional discharge of untold amounts of highly toxic wastewater as ‘routine maintenance’ seems ludicrous,’ said Peter Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance.”

 

Coal ashIn case you missed it over the weekend, be sure to check out this essay by Raleigh News & Observer editorial page editor Ned Barnett in which explains and laments the demise of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Be sure to check it out even if you saw the print version, because the virtual one includes video clips of Barnett’s interview with former DENR regional supervisor Amy Adams (currently of the group Appalachian Voices).

As Barnett puts it in the essay:

Adams originally welcomed the call for efficiency [at DENR]. Like most bureaucracies, DENR needed streamlining and focus. But she balked and quit once it became clear that the real change at DENR would be less, not smarter, enforcement. DENR’s new role would be to guide permit applicants through what Skvarla calls ‘the maze’ of regulations.

As Adams puts it, the message from DENR’s leadership, stripped of its customer service code words, was: ‘Stop investigating, stop enforcing and just be someone out there holding a hand.’ Read More

Hog industryCoal ash isn’t the only pollutant wreaking havoc in North Carolina’s waterways these days; the enormous problems posed by industrial hog production are back in the news. As noted in this space last week, there’s a stomach-turning crisis underway as you read this in involving a porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus outbreak in North Carolina.

This morning’s Fayetteville Observer weighs in on the subject with an editorial bearing the marvelously understated headline “Our view: Dead pigs, water may be an unhealthy mix.” As the editorial notes (after describing in grim detail what’s been going on) the recent coal ash disaster caused by lax regulation offers little hope that regulators are taking all necessary steps: Read More

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