coal ash regulation

McCrory's twisted logic in Coal Ash Commission disbandment

A wild interpretation of what the Supremes already interpreted:

The McCrory administration, however, says that since the appointments provision in the 2014 law that created the commission was found to be unconstitutional, then the commission itself is unconstitutional.

“It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” spokesman Graham Wilson said in an email Friday. “It, therefore, no longer existed and could conduct no work. You don’t have to ‘disband’ an entity that no longer exists.”

None of the complaints levied by the administration in the run-up to this decision declared the Commission wasn't needed. It all had to do with appointments. And the creation of boards and commissions is a Legislative function, not Executive. So in your zeal to "declare total victory" or whatever the hell you're doing, you've gone from one branch's overreach to another branch's overreach. A fine example of why neither of those branches should be controlled by Republicans.

McCrory's dinner ex parte with Duke Energy

Hat-tip to Mark Binker for reading the tea leaves:

But on June 1, while in the midst of pressing legal action against and issuing news releases critical of the nation's largest utility, top state officials met for a private dinner at the Executive Mansion with Duke executives, according to calendar entries and other records reviewed by WRAL News.

McCrory, his top environmental regulator, his chief of staff and his general counsel attended, as did Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good, the company's general counsel and the president of the company's North Carolina operations.

Go read the whole story. As usual, Mark takes advantage of his freedom from column space restrictions to provide an in-depth exploration of the issue, as well as providing the context necessary to fully understand the ethics. Or lack of, as in this case. And this (lack of) commenting speaks volumes, as well:

DEQ ignores its own staff in classifying coal ash ponds

Thanks for your input, but we have other plans:

Despite staff recommendations that virtually all Duke Energy’s 32 coal ponds should be rated high risk, state regulators charged with classifying the sites listed most at lower risk levels.

“I am disappointed that special interest groups attempted to corrupt the process by leaking an early draft that was based on incomplete data,” DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart said. “The draft classifications released today reflect the latest environmental science.”

Translated: "I thought everybody was on board with saving Duke Energy as much money as possible, but apparently a wink wink, nudge nudge wasn't enough to get that message across. We'll be holding some training sessions in the near future with a couple of former Enron executives on the importance of body language when your boss is trying to tell you something he can't say outloud."

Coal Ash Wednesday: The EPA's lukewarm regulations finally arrive


Leaving environmental orgs to foot the legal bills:

While the EPA’s coal ash regulation seems like a major step forward in protecting America’s environmental health and drinking water, the truth is that it’s more of a preferred practice than a law. That’s because it is ultimately up to citizen lawsuits, usually via environmental organizations, to make states enforce the law.

Nearly half a million people commented during the agency’s eight city public meeting tour in 2010, though it took another four and a half years and dilution from the White House before the regulation was finalized, and an additional four months before it was published in the Federal Register. It’s taken yet another six months to get us to this point.

And after the years of delay and diluting, mostly the result of fossil fuel industry lobbying and astro-turf economic scare tactics, Republicans still try to portray the EPA as a hateful oppressing arm of the government. The reality is, these spoiled rich polluters got nearly everything they wanted, but still aren't satisfied. And our waters continue to be contaminated on multiple fronts.

Coal Ash Wednesday: More state control = more danger

Exactly the opposite of what we need:

For a President who likes to champion cleaner, safer and cost effective energy and environmental solutions, it caught some by surprise when Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency punted on December 19th on classifying toxic coal ash as a hazardous waste which would have set stringent disposal requirements. Instead coal ash is now classified as non-hazardous waste, equivalent in many respects to household garbage.

EPA’s ruling leaves a lot of discretion to state authorities and that’s a big problem, Holleman asserted. Investor-owned utilities are very powerful in their home states. They exert significant influence over who’s elected or appointed to administer disposal rules and then how those rules are enforced, or effectively ignored.

At one time the Hometicks (realtors) ruled the roost in the General Assembly, but in the last six years or so, Duke Energy has emerged as the undisputed king of lobbying in Raleigh, and their will be done. And when that level of influence is being wielded, there's simply no room left for the people.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Weak containment and even weaker Federal rules

Apparently the term "hazardous" is hazardous to profits:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the rules "a pragmatic step forward that protects public health." But environmentalists say the regulations fail to protect communities adequately and will allow disasters like Kingston and Duke Energy's Dan River spill that occurred in North Carolina earlier this year to happen again.

"EPA's coal ash rule is too little and too late," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project. "Too little because its standards are minimal, vague, and unenforceable. Too late, because damage from collapsing dikes and leaking ash dumps has accumulated in the absence of common sense rules designed to prevent those disasters."

I'm beginning to really detest that word "pragmatic." It's most often used by people who can't bring themselves to do the right thing, for fear it will offend an idiot or cut into somebody's profit margin. And considering that "retiring" coal plants will vastly outnumber newly-constructed ones in the next few decades, parts of this new rule package are simply pointless:

He blinded them with science

North Carolina's poorly conceived Coal Ash Commission is off to a rocky start. To begin with, Guvnor Pat is suing Tillisberger because Pat doesn't get to appoint enough of his cronies to the commission.

And in case you missed it, the person appointed to fill "science seat" on the commission isn't all that strong on science.

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