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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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Frack-7If you want to understand why the potential for fracking to be a success in North Carolina (either for our economy or our environment) is very, very small, be sure to check out Professor Rob Jackson’s op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer. His prediction: A very low economic impact driven my marginal exploration companies with little incentive to clean up the messes they make. As the essay notes:

“The shale gas business is similar to Las Vegas, where the casinos know if enough people gamble they’ll make money because the odds are in their favor. Companies work to set the best odds possible in terms of rules and incentives and then drill a lot of wells knowing that most of them will lose money. They’re banking on the quarter or third that strike it rich. It’s an economy of scale.

In North Carolina, we don’t have an economy of scale. It’s true that we’re still learning about our resource here. We don’t know exactly how thick the shale deposits are. We don’t know whether we’ll have 2 percent organic carbon content or 10 percent, or how much propane, butane and even oil we’ll have.

We do know one thing for certain: The total area of shales in our state is tiny compared with other areas in the U.S. and other countries in the world. Nothing is going to change that fact. It’s also the reason big companies aren’t paying attention to North Carolina.

Read More

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A Senate committee reviewed a coal ash clean-up bill yesterday and afterwards, the experts and advocates at the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club responded with a lukewarm review:

“NC Sierra Club Statement on the NC Senate’s Coal Ash Bill

RALEIGH – This afternoon the NC Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources held an information-only hearing on the Senate’s coal ash bill that takes the place of the Governor’s proposal.

Upon the Senate’s actions, Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, communications director of the NC Sierra Club issued the following statement:

‘The Senate did well to create ambitious timelines for closure of coal ash pits in the state. However, closure standards with safeguards to ensure that coal ash is permanently separated from water are lacking in the bill.’

‘This bill lacks guidance Read More

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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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Frack-free-400The  editorial page of the Wilmington Star-News joins the long and growing list of opponents to the fast-track fracking bill approved by the General Assembly last week.

Among other things, the paper notes the opposition of conservative Republican lawmaker Rick Catlin of New Hanover County:

“Republican Rep. Rick Catlin voted against the bill, as did Democrat Susi Hamilton; both are from New Hanover County. They understand that there is too much at stake and not enough protections for the public or the taxpayers in this bill. Hamilton notes that under this scenario, the General Assembly would have no review of the rules the commission develops, despite assurances to the contrary in previous legislation.

Catlin, an environmental engineer and hydrogeologist knows a thing or two about the risks of fracking.

He is not opposed to gas exploration – on the contrary, he sees it as potentially beneficial to the state, environmentally and economically, if it is done safely and correctly. But he thinks the state is giving up too much oversight and too much potential revenue….

In other words, whether the people like it or not, drilling will occur – potentially affecting their property, their health and the sovereignty of city and town boards made up of residents who will have to live with whatever the oil and gas companies leave behind. And the state won’t get nearly as much money as other states that allow this practice to occur.

This is what passes for ‘doing the will of the people’ in the new North Carolina.”