coal ash contamination

Coal Ash Wednesday: The contamination continues

The only thing that's ceased is the outrage and determination from lawmakers to fix the problem:

The more that the scientists look, the more problems they find – for example, arsenic in a drinking water reservoir, contaminated well water, fish kills, polluted groundwater. All are unnecessary.

Every day, 3 million gallons of polluted coal ash water flow into North Carolina rivers from Duke Energy’s coal ash lagoons. Every day, groundwater is being contaminated. Every day, there is the risk of another catastrophe. It is long past time for DENR and Duke Energy to act to clean up North Carolina’s coal ash mess and protect all 14 communities and rivers across North Carolina.

And the only thing lawmakers seem to be concerned about is losing ground in their efforts to suppress women's access to health care and LGBT rights. Once again, the GOP is allowing its misogyny and bigotry to draw their focus away from real dangers, and the citizens of NC are paying the price for that lack of concern. Meanwhile, the Duke Energy happy talk express is chugging right along:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Eden has a pep rally

Someone should tell these folks: Denial is a river in Egypt:

It's been nearly a year since thousands of tons of coal ash was dumped into the Dan River from a retired Duke Energy steam station. Since then, Eden officials have fought a public relations nightmare. On Tuesday, those same officials stood before members of the media and proclaimed, "Our rivers are thriving."

“The fishing is as good now as it was when I was a child,” says Scott Dalton, the owner of Mayodan Outdoor Sports. Dalton spoke at Tuesday’s news conference promoting the Dan River’s safety.

I don't doubt that last part. It wasn't until the late 1970's that the EPA really cracked down on industrial wastes flowing directly into rivers, so the Dan River is right now probably of a similar quality. And I don't fault the leaders of Eden for whistling past the graveyard, since a whole lot of people's livelihood is at stake. But every time they make this pitch, they're excusing Duke Energy for leaving over 90% of the spilled coal ash in the river.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy plays pre-emptive card, again

Trying to choose its legal opponents:

Duke says the Yadkin Riverkeeper Foundation and the Waterkeeper Alliance are barred from bringing the private suit, filed in September. It argues that the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has filed suit over coal-ash issues at Buck, located in Rowan County, and taken other enforcement actions. It cites federal law that bars private suits involving the federal Clean Water Act when state agencies have acted.

John Suttles, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, says Duke has made similar arguments unsuccessfully in other environmental cases. He says the suit is properly filed and that it addresses violations of the Clean Water Act not addressed by the state suit.

Hopefully the judge will let the suit proceed, because it's important to get the Riverkeepers' testimony on record. DENR is not likely to go into any details on potential environmental damage resulting from the leaks, as they have an unfortunate habit of waiting until there's a crisis before acting.

Coal Ash Wednesday: "But the bugs are doing just fine!"

The biological trump rule in action:

Aquatic insect communities in an area downstream from the Feb. 2 coal ash spill appear to be thriving, according to the results of testing conducted by state environmental officials.

Using a standard sampling protocol, state scientists collected samples of benthic macroinvertebrate at two locations – one upstream and one downstream of the site of Dan River spill. During the sampling, scientists collect insects and other invertebrates from the river using nets and then record the number and species present in their samples before returning the insects to the river. Scientists can determine much about the health of the river based on the number and type of living species they collect. The populations from the upstream and downstream sites were similar and were considered “Excellent,” which is the highest biological rating available.

This is good news, for one location out of a 70 mile stretch of river, that is. Some of that spilled coal ash is now buried under a few feet of silt, but some of it isn't. I won't go as far as to imply DENR testers located a healthy spot and tested that one, although that wouldn't surprise me. But one sample out of seventy miles doesn't a clean river make. Admittedly, I'm a little out of my depth here, but these folks aren't:

Living in Dukeville: The epitome of corporate irresponsibility

Just one more reason Duke Energy can't be trusted:

"It's bad to live in the United States and don't have good water to drink," said Ron, whose family farm sits just a couple hundred yards from the plant's three ponds housing more than 5 million tons of coal ash. "One neighbor is even bathing her young children in bottled water," JoAnne added, explaining that many in their community are worried about their drinking water.

"It's terrible," explained Dukeville resident Tyson Beaver. "We immediately switched from drinking well water and started buying bottled water to drink and to cook with and to wash dishes."

Water contamination is the main issue where fracking and coal ash converge, and what's happening in Dukeville will soon be happening in numerous other communities across the state. The Legislature needs to pass a bill (don't hold your breath) that will dictate whoever contaminates private drinking water wells must supply fresh water to replace the tainted water, at the expense of the entity who tainted the well. That's not radical, it's the bare minimum of what we expect from our elected officials.

Coal ash Commission led by equity fund manager

Because having the right person for the job is important:

"My goal for this commission is to establish the most effective and most efficient management of coal ash in America," said Michael Jacobs, the chairman of the new board. "This commission will focus on science, safety and economics, not politics."

Jacobs, the founder of a private-equity fund, was appointed by McCrory to lead the commission. Jacobs said the board's job will be to balance the safety of the state's citizens and environment against the massive cost of the cleanup.

Really, Pat? You're going into court to argue that you should be granted more appointments to this and other commissions, and yet your choice to chair an environmental "safeguard" entity is an investment advisor? That's almost as funny as this comment from Duke Energy:

Coal Ash Wednesday: SELC doing the jobs of ineffective regulators

Begging the question: What are we paying those regulators for?

Following lawsuits by SELC, two of the three utilities in the Carolinas -- South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper -- are removing coal ash from unlined pits near rivers to dry, lined storage facilities away from rivers and lakes. SELC is currently representing dozens of groups in 10 state and federal lawsuits to address 14 leaking coal ash sites maintained by Duke Energy throughout North Carolina.

For decades, the EPA has developed and issued guidelines to individual states on how to comply with Federal statutes on clean air and water, because the enforcement "arm" of this system relies on state environmental agencies. But due to mostly Republican oversight of these state operations, that part of the job is not getting done. The bottom line is, SELC isn't engaging in "activism" or some other hot-button term, they are stepping into an empty space where a state government regulator should be standing, and yet Republican leaders in the General Assembly would have us blame them for "meddling." Business as usual for the GOP, break something and then blame those who try to fix it.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy profits up 27%

I'm sure the surviving fish in the Dan River will be impressed:

Duke earned nearly $1.3 billion for the quarter, compared to $1 billion a year earlier, on $6.4 billion in revenue. Earnings per share of $1.80 were boosted 43 cents by the sale in the Midwest. Adjusted for such one-time events, earnings were $1.40 a share compared to the $1.46 of the same period last year and below analysts’ estimates of $1.52.

The company estimated its costs under North Carolina’s coal ash legislation, which mandates that Duke close its 32 coal ash ponds by 2029, at $3.4 billion. That figure is likely to change, but Duke had previously told regulators it could cost as much as $10 billion to close the ponds.

Yes, they told the regulators that before the Legislature's coal ash bill was finished and voted on, so the "scare tactics" are no longer necessary. I would normally have more to say about this, but it's apparent way too many NC voters are asleep at the wheel.

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.

Coal Ash Wednesday: McCrory says environmental orgs should help pay for cleanup

Instead of spending their money on political ads against him:

The theme of the spots has been that new regulations the governor signed are too lax. They conclude with the message that the governor “has coal ash on his hands,” showing an image of dirty palms.

"I think it's just a total waste of money," McCrory told reporters during a tour of SAS in Cary. "They ought to be spending their money to clean up the environment ... not on ridiculous, negative political TV ads."

There's more than one mess that needs to be cleaned up. North Carolina's political mess is quite possibly more dangerous to our natural resources than coal ash impoundments, because it encompasses everything from fracking and offshore drilling to the relaxation of air and water quality regulations that keep industry and developers in check. And the only way to clean up that particular mess is to remove the GOP contamination of the General Assembly and the Governor's mansion.

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