Coal Ash Wednesday: Putting lipstick on a toxic pig

Duke Energy's "philanthropy" geared towards area beautification, not watershed protection:

The foundation is particularly interested in receiving applications from economic development programs that would enhance “community beautification and maintenance with a measurable impact on increasing tourism, business and population growth within the county.”

In the environmental category, RCCF seeks programs “that have a visible impact on the local community, such as outdoor classrooms or environmental signage along trails, (and) walkways along the river.”

While this $10 million from Duke Energy was a voluntary donation and had no regulatory requirements attached, the "visible impact" qualifier for use of these funds makes it part of their wider public relations efforts. Most of the real work that is done safeguarding and enhancing water quality is not visible to the average passerby, but it's much more important than streetscaping or posting a sign by a trail.

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Offsetting environmental damage

is often a complicated issue, but there needs to be some connection between the two. Drain a section of wetland, expand one somewhere else nearby. Cut a bunch of trees down, plant some more to take their place. But when a river is contaminated, especially to this degree, making purely aesthetic improvements to the area doesn't offset a damn thing.

Except maybe in how we perceive the entity that contaminated the river in the first place.