Duke Energy

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: 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: 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:

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: Duke Energy's stubborn refusal to admit wrongdoing in Dan River spill

The term "negligence" never seems to come up in these discussions:

But Lesley Stahl of CBS, who anchored the hard-hitting segment, noted that Duke had been warned after repeated independent inspections in the past to keep a close watch on the stormwater pipe that ended up collapsing and rupturing under a pond, dumping an unimaginable 39,000 tons of the black filth into the Dan River.

Lynn Good, the current chief executive of Duke Energy, who was on the job only seven months at the time of the spill, put the best face she could on the situation. “It was an accident,” Good said. “It didn’t work the way it should have worked. It didn’t meet our standards or expectations.”

No, after several warnings spread over an equal number of years, it no longer meets the criteria of an "accident." It was an incident, and an avoidable one at that. And your continued efforts to shy away from taking complete responsibility seriously calls into question Duke Energy's ability to be a trustworthy partner in the effort to make the remaining coal ash impoundments safe and secure. If the General Assembly and the Coal Ash Commission don't understand that, the "negligence" will leak over to them, too.

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.”

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.

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