coal ash disposal

Coal Ash Commission a model of ineptitude

Undermanned, underfunded, and painfully underqualified:

Under the Coal Ash Management Act, which established the commission, Duke Energy pays $2.4 million to the state ever year in order to pay for extra staff at both the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the commission. While the commission has been ordered to oversee DENR's work and develop rules for disposing of the ash, DENR gets first dibs on the funding under the current law.

That quirk, combined with the fact that Duke pays in quarterly installments, means that the commission will have little funding to work with this year. While it has been able to hire an executive director and a part-time lawyer, a second lawyer, an engineer and other staff members are on hold until the cash flow issue can be worked out.

Bolding mine. Having an executive director with nobody to direct is about as effective as buying a Rolls Royce without an engine. Looks nice sitting in your driveway, but it ain't going anywhere.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Famous last words

The propaganda train is already rollin' down the tracks:

All coal ash brought to a former clay mine in Sanford would be transported by rail only, Duke Energy and Charah representatives said at a Sanford Environmental Advisory Board meeting Tuesday. Between rail transportation and onsite trucking, Price said there still is a zero-tolerance policy for coal ash dust.

“Once we put it in the rail car, we will spray something on it to seal it,” he said, adding that once the coal ash reaches the site, it will remain at 20 percent moisture. “As long as we keep the moisture at the 20 percent, it does not get airborne.”

Just so everybody understands what this means: The coal ash is not going to be put into those sealed hazardous waste tanker cars, it will be transported in open-top hoppers, directly exposed to the air. And they're going to wet it down at the start, and hope like hell he wind and forward motion of the train don't cause enough evaporation to dry it out (the top layers, anyway) and set it loose in the air. I think we should require them to publish the rail shipping schedule, so observers can be on site in different locations to monitor the ash trains. But I doubt they will volunteer that information.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Local opposition to proposed dump grows

Following the toxic dust trail:

Strickland said anyone living near the railroad tracks between Charlotte and Wilmington would be affected by coal ash dust contaminating the air during transport, and anyone drinking water from the Cape Fear River would be affected by potentially contaminated water. “It's not just a Lee and Chatham County thing,” she said.

According to informational sheets distributed by BREDL and EnvironmentaLee members, the Cape Fear River runs through eight counties and passes by 12 towns and parks along the way. An additional 24 towns and universities are located along the railroad from Wilmington to Sanford, and 17 towns and parks are located along the railroad from Charlotte to Sanford.

Like many of these folks, I'm finding it hard to understand the need to transport this stuff halfway across the state. If they were moving it close to a facility where it could be reused for concrete or some other process, I could get that. But just for storage? Dig a new (lined) pit beside the old one and shift it over, then put a cap on it. Unless you're intentionally trying to generate horrendous costs during the process of cleanup/disposal of your first few projects, so you can convince lawmakers or commission members to back off. It also helps if you can get your money back from ratepayers with the help of the NC Utilities Commission.

Chatham and Lee Counties' opposition to Duke Energy's coal ash dumping plans

Hat-tip to Facing South's Sue Sturgis for providing some numbers:

Tons of coal ash that Duke Energy, which has been under scrutiny since a spill last year from one of its storage ponds contaminated the Dan River, has said it plans to move from existing high-risk dumps to other sites over the next 15 years: 100 million

Responsibility Duke Energy will bear for the waste once it's dumped in the abandoned mines, thanks to a scheme in which ownership of the ash will be transferred to a subsidiary of Charah, the Kentucky-based company Duke is contracting with to handle the disposal: none

Frankly, this shuffling of responsibility for the "disposition" of toxic waste should be outlawed. It's in the best interests of not only local governments and the people they represent, but of state government as well. If this plan goes awry, with drinking water wells fouled and a massive, costly cleanup required, who do you think's going to pay for that? That's right, the taxpayers. Even if the EPA declared it a Superfund site and took Charah's subsidiary to court, history has shown that could take decades to resolve.

Coal Ash Wednesday: "It's out of our hands."

Duke energy will no longer be responsible for ash dumped in Lee and Chatham Counties:

In most cases, the landowner would be legally liable for such damages. But the owner of the abandoned brick mine is not Duke Energy; it's Green Meadow LLC, a new corporation led by the president of Charah Inc., a Kentucky ash disposal company contracting with Duke on the coal ash project.

Once Charah takes possession of the ash, Duke may not be responsible for the waste, legal experts say, a contingency that may be part of Duke's private contract with Charah. And if Green Meadow or Charah does not have the money to pay damages emanating from a lawsuit, then county governments and the state—not Duke Energy—may be ultimately forced to pay, legal experts say.

This won't be the first time Duke Energy has absolved itself of the responsibility for it's toxic coal ash, but it should be the last. Even the "business-friendly" GOP-led Legislature should recognize that dumping the cost onto taxpayers is wrong. Then again, they haven't shown much compassion for the 99% since they've been at the wheel, so I don't hold out much hope they'll take steps to stop this shifting of responsibility.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Charah and the "beneficial" use of CCRs

From your sidewalk to your dinner table, the coal ash could end up anywhere:

It's a Thursday, November 3, 2011 afternoon in Frankfort. State legislators on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee are having their little meeting. (minutes) Questions are getting answers. Oh, and Danny Gray, president of Charah®, Inc. he's there.

Question: "Is coal ash fed to livestock?"

"Commissioner Scott said no. However, Commissioner Scott noted that research is currently being done using CCRs (Coal Combustion Residuals) in gardening, and it could be considered a beneficial re-use." Gray, who probably has about zero environmental credentials, also volunteered, "CCRs can be used in wallboard, cement, and in forage crops."

Bolding mine. The company that is planning to dump store Duke Energy-generated coal ash in Lee County is also an industry leader in finding profitable ways to sweep this toxic stuff under the rug. Or beside the River:

When is a dump not a dump?

It's a great big hole in the ground that's going to be filled with waste materials. Lee County officials say that's a dump. State officials say it's not.

Lee commissioners’ chairman Charlie Parks says the Duke-Charah plan appears to be a safe use for ash – except for what they call it.

“We think this is a landfill like anything else,” he said. “You can call it what you want, but it’s a hole in the ground and you’re filling it up.”

Coal Ash Wednesday: Sanford stuck between clay and a hard place

This is one battle they've already lost:

“In the early 90s, Waste Management tried to put a landfill out at the same site that was just purchased by Chara,” Crumpton continued. “Then there was an attempt in 2006 where D H Griffin was trying to site a construction and demolition debris landfill out in the Cumnock area.” Chara is the landfill management company Duke Energy contracted to supervise and operate the coal ash storage sites in Lee and Chatham counties.

The difference between past attempts at putting landfills in Lee County and Duke’s plan to transfer coal ash from Mount Holly and Wilmington to the 410-acre site off Post Office Road is that, pending approval from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the plan to store coal ash in Lee County is a done deal.

Granted, taking advantage of an already-existing impermeable layer of clay for coal ash storage is smart, but communities should still be able to reject such projects if a majority of the citizens don't approve. Giving Duke Energy carte blanche to put that crap anywhere they want in the state is a recipe for disaster, because money (cost) will eventually be their only concern. That's how we got into this mess in the first place.

You get what you vote for

The good folks of Lee County are up in arms about Duke Energy & Pollution's plan to dump coal ash in Sanford and Moncure.

If the comments made during a meeting inside the Lee County Board of Commissioners Room Monday night are any indication, Lee County residents do not want coal ash in their backyards.

“Who invited this idea,” one resident asked. “Why weren’t we notified sooner? And what is the purpose of bringing coal ash to our area?”

“If the coal ash dumping is so desirable, then why aren't the CEOs from Duke Power and their neighbors fighting to have it in their backyards,” another resident said.

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