Duke Energy

Coal Ash Wednesday: I'll see your fine and raise you a rate

Disciplinary action or election-year posturing?

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a notice of violation to Duke over the ongoing contamination at the L.V. Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County. The site includes a pair of unlined dumps estimated to hold 2.6 million tons of ash.

The state says monitoring wells near Duke's dumps at Sutton showed readings exceeding state groundwater standards for boron, thallium, selenium, iron, manganese and other chemicals. Thallium was used for decades as the active ingredient in rat poison until it was banned because it is so highly toxic.

Make no mistake, Duke Energy should be fined for allowing toxic chemicals to leak from their coal ash impoundments. But considering they will soon be pursuing (and likely be granted) rate increases from the NCUC, whatever fines they do pay for this will be easily recouped from the people. And efforts by DENR to conceal or edit test results calls the timing of this action into question:

Nothing to brag about

Coal Ash Wednesday: "cap and leak" plan moves forward

Stick a Band-Aid on it and do a victory dance:

The legislation mandates that ash be excavated at only four of Duke’s 14 North Carolina coal-fired power plants. “Low-risk” ponds can be capped in place without removing ash. A moratorium on Duke seeking rate hikes to pay for coal ash cleanup would expire in January 2015, as the Senate bill had stated. The House had pushed for the moratorium to end in December 2016.

Contaminated groundwater has been found near ash ponds at all of Duke’s coal plants. The Southern Environmental Law Center said the committee changes seek “to weaken existing law and protect Duke Energy from taking responsibility for its coal ash waste.”

“Allowing coal ash to be left in unlined, leaking pits across North Carolina with documented groundwater contamination at each site is not a cleanup plan nor does it protect the people of North Carolina,” the center said.

This isn't a compromise bill, it's the bastard child of a horrible plan and an already compromised plan. And the only reason it's moving forward is political in nature, so Republicans won't get punished in November for doing nothing.

Pat McCrory's crisis continues: "legacy by damnation"

The words are haunting.

Charlotte Observer editorial board gets a hit before hook touches water

The Charlotte Observer editorial board inadvertently asked for takers on Saturday in regard to Governor Pat McCrory's Duke stock ownership. Like chum on the crest of a wave off of Cape Lookout, it didn't take long.

I’m a proud native of the City of Charlotte. One of my first jobs was delivering the Observer when I was in junior high school. I attended the public schools and went on to Wake Forest University for undergraduate and law school. After two years in the U.S. Army, I practiced law in Charlotte for 40 years. I even had the honor of serving as president of the Mecklenburg County Bar Association.

I also love our entire state. That’s why I accepted the opportunity to serve as general counsel for our former mayor and current governor, Pat McCrory.

More on McCrory and Duke Energy

Received via email:

You recall that McCrory refused to disclose anything about his sources of income or release his tax returns.

In the continuing dialogue, what is he now saying about Duke Energy stock? That he owns some in a 401(k) plan as a separate asset? Or does he participate in the Duke Retirement Savings Program?

Either way, any decision of his regarding a matter that financially impacts Duke common stock has a material impact on McCrory’s economic well-being (given that his financial disclosure statement shows his 401(k) is his only significant asset).

From the Duke 401(k) plan:

Coal Ash Wednesday: hide your wallets

NC Senate Republicans want you to pay for the cleanup:

N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) says the General Assembly may be ready to act as early as next week on coal ash legislation that stalled last week over differences between Senate and House versions of the bill. He says negotiators are working on consensus language to iron out differences over a House provision in the legislation. And he believes a solution can be found by Aug. 14, when the House and Senate expect to be in session, “or thereabouts.”

House conferees had agreed to accept a Senate provision that allows Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) to seek permission starting in January to charge customers for the cost of cleaning up its 33 ash ponds across the state. But, in return, they wanted to change some of the Senate’s language on treatment of ponds that were considered low-risk.

Unless I'm mistaken, Duke Energy already has the ability to seek rate increases from the North Carolina Utilities Commission for costs they incur. Any legislative language added now won't just give them the permission to do this, it will tilt that decision-making process heavily in their favor. Something a super-majority of NC citizens don't believe should happen. This is not a compromise, it's a betrayal of ratepayers, and it will be a serious campaign issue for those who support it.

Coal Ash Wednesday: dust in the wind

Going from wet to dry impoundment will have consequences:

But water pollution is not the only environmental threat from poorly regulated coal ash: A new report identifies serious health risks from airborne coal ash, which will be a growing problem for North Carolina and other states as they shift from wet to dry storage, as many environmentalists are urging.

Last week Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and Earthjustice released "Ash in Lungs: How Breathing Coal Ash Is Hazardous to Your Health." It finds that coal ash dust can be inhaled into the lungs, where the small particles cause inflammation and immunological reactions and increase the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. The dust can get into the air from dry coal ash landfills and from uncovered trucks carrying coal ash, and it presents a hazard to workers handling coal ash as well as nearby residents.

As is often the case with toxic residue from industrial activity, there is no silver bullet to solve the problem. The particulates in coal ash vary greatly in size, and the smaller stuff can be carried on the wind quite some distance before some unlucky person (or animal) breathes it in:

NCGA Short Session ends with no action on coal ash

Maybe we'll see something after all the election campaign contributions have been pocketed:

The General Assembly will not pass a bill governing the clean up of 33 coal ash pits at 14 locations across North Carolina after House and Senate negotiators failed to reach a consensus late Thursday night and early Friday morning.

"Up until about eight hours ago, I thought we could reach an agreement," Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, said early Friday. "Then things took an odd turn ... and I'm just going to leave it at that."

As some environmental groups have put forward, it would be better to have no legislation (right now) than bad legislation. But considering coal ash was the first issue on the docket at the beginning of this session, they've definitely had time to work out the kinks. If the leadership wanted to, that is. And apparently they're having some difficulty keeping their troops in line:

Coal Ash Wednesday: the people have spoken

And they're not happy with the Legislature's half-measures on cleanup:

Three-quarters of North Carolinians -- of all political affiliations -- don't think the state legislature has done enough to address Duke Energy's recent coal ash spill into the Dan River.

* Duke Energy should clean up the coal ash left in the Dan. A solid 80 percent of voters surveyed say Duke Energy should have to clean up the 36,000 tons of toxic ash that remain in the Dan River out of the approximately 39,000 tons spilled. That includes 89 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Republicans, and 72 percent of independents. Only 13 percent of voters surveyed think the spill cleanup has been adequate. The state has lifted a ban on swimming in the river, but environmentalists have raised concerns about potential health threats from the remaining coal ash, which contains potent toxins including arsenic, lead and mercury.

And that 13% are probably Tea Partiers who think this whole thing is a plot by tree-huggers to push us closer to Agenda 21, or some such nonsense. But the rest of us, the ones who live in the real world, are deeply concerned about lawmakers being beholden to Duke Energy:

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