John Skvarla uses DENR to line his own pockets

What good is being Secretary of Destroying the Environment if you can't use your position to advance your own interests?

In just five months this winter, the McCrory administration rewrote those [river and stream buffer] rules with the help of private companies that had a financial stake in the outcome – including the company where state Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla once worked.

Yes, five years in the making, river and stream buffer rules were protecting our water quality. John Skvarla and DAG McCrony weren't about to stand for that. So they got a group of 7 people together and rewrote the rules in secret. In case you were wondering whether the 7 people consisted entirely of environmental exploitation profiteers and industry-biased government employees, the answer is (SURPRISE!) yes.

She blinded them with science

The NC GOP doesn't like science. It tells them that man-made climate change is causing sea level rise, so they outlaw the use of scientific projections of sea level rise.

Now, after science tells them that reducing air pollution save lives, they want to stop monitoring air pollution.

Stronger emission controls in North Carolina may have saved lives by reducing deaths from respiratory illness, according to an academic study published Monday.

Skvarla sweeps Dems off board, replaces with Republicans

But it had nothing to do with politics, of course:

But Ross has her own suspicions. The booted members were all registered Democrats, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections. Of the new members who are registered voters, all are Republican. “I can’t speak for DENR,” Ross said. “What I do know is that I’m a registered Republican, and I have to say I suspect that was the reason I was kept on the board.”

But the Pigeon River Fund isn’t a political board. Its members are tasked with reviewing grant applications, visiting sites and deciding which projects to fund. The members tend to be united by their knowledge of or interest in water quality, not by their politics. “Politics never came in, I can tell you that,” Melville said. “The recommendations [for board appointees] came in from people that had an interest in the water quality.”

We'll see about that. Local or county GOP party officials have never been adept at hiding their motives, because the only way they stay in power is if everybody knows how influential they are. Film at eleven.

Duke Energy & Pollution continues its arrogance

Apparently Duke Energy & Pollution has grown accustomed to running the state of North Carolina and in particular, receiving the response "How high?" when ordering officials at NC DENR to jump.

In their latest demonstration of disdain for rules to protect the environment, Duke Energy & Pollution has responded to DENR's notices of violation. DENR cited Duke Energy & Pollution for illegal stormwater discharges at 6 different sites.

Duke Energy & Pollution says those citations are "in error". They said they don't even need permits for two of the sites, and:

For the four other sites, the letter says, Duke has had permit applications pending for months or years at DENR and was working through the permitting process with the agency in good faith.

Whine with that sleaze: Skvarla's back in the op-eds

Save it for the Federal investigators, pal:

Thank you for pointing out in your March 23 editorial “ Before coal ash spill, GOP was bashing environmental rules, groups” that the spill into the Dan River from Duke Energy’s 1968 coal ash pond was not the fault of the McCrory administration. How gracious.

While the McCrory administration, the EPA and others work to solve this longstanding problem, you have used it in your ongoing efforts to attack the governor. It is unfortunate for you that you must include the inconvenient fact that, while nothing was done about coal ash for decades under Democratic leadership, the McCrory administration took swift action, suing the utility over groundwater contamination and illegal discharges within 45 days of taking office.

Which, as most people in the Continental United States are now aware, was merely a ploy to limit the damages Duke Energy would have to pay from a lawsuit that was already in progress. And it also answers the question of why Duke Energy would spend so much money (over 1.1 million) to get one man elected. Sarcasm and whining might feel good, John, but it rarely (if ever) solves your problems.

Skvarla hires former Duke attorney

We believe that North Carolina has thousands of lawyers. In fact, North Carolina has our own lawyer on retainer -- he's the attorney general; his name is Roy Cooper.

Which, of course, means that Deputy Assistant Guvnor Pat has to hire his own lawyers for just about everything, because Roy wants to move into Pat's house.

So when the feds came calling with subpoenas, Pat & his McCrony John Skvarla hired a lawyer.

But this lawyer used to represent Duke Energy, the subject of all the subpoenas in the first place.

The lawyer hired to represent North Carolina's environmental agency during a federal investigation into its regulation of Duke Energy's coal ash dumps once represented the utility company in a different criminal probe.

Thousands of lawyers, and Skvarla chose Mark Calloway, who represented Duke in the past.

Add the Broad River to Duke Energy's polluted list

Once again, the riverkeepers, not DENR, inform the public.

The French Broad Riverkeeper detected high levels of arsenic in a water sample of wastewater leaking from the Cliffside Steam Station operated by Duke Energy on the Broad River.

Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson tested the water in a variety of locations along the Cliffside property at the Broad River on March 10. This week he reported arsenic at “25 times” the EPA drinking water standard in one seep just downstream from the spillway and near a retired coal ash pond which has dried out.

Trickle or gush?

Fracking, DENR and the pits

In an editorial published in the Raleigh News & Observer, Charles Ritter warns that DENR's lack of oversight could have consequences even worse than the coal ash disaster once the frackers get their turn to destroy our environment.

Fracking pits are even more dangerous than coal ash pits because:

  • Fracking fluid is more liquid than coal ash slurry and flows more easily downhill into reservoirs like Jordan Lake and the rivers that feed it.
  • The toxins and carcinogens in fracking fluid will not be disclosed per draft DENR rules, making it more difficult for emergency medical personnel to immediately treat those who are exposed.
  • The number of fracking pits in N.C. near each fracking well could easily be hundreds of times the number of coal ash pits.

Duke Energy caught in lie

61 million gallons more.

That's how much Duke Energy illegally pumped into the Cape Fear River.

Duke Energy’s temporary pumping of two coal ash ponds in Chatham County, which was discovered last week by regulators and environmentalists, illegally put 61 million gallons of wastewater into a tributary of the Cape Fear River.

This wasn't a spill, or an accident, or a failed mechanical system. This was deliberate pumping of waste into the river.

Coal Ash Wednesday: ain't it grand (jury)?

Leaving no coal-ash-encrusted stone unturned:

The session at the federal courthouse in Raleigh comes as environmental groups amp up pressure on regulators and lawmakers to force Duke to clean up the leaky, unlined ash pits polluting North Carolina's waterways. Prosecutors have issued at least 23 grand jury subpoenas to Duke executives and state officials.

The subpoenas seek records from Duke, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the state Utilities Commission. They include reams of documents, including emails, memos and reports, related to the Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River and the state's oversight of the company's nearly three dozen other coal ash dumps spread out at 14 current and retired power plants.

Not to be dramatic, but: there will be blood. Grand juries have pretty broad subpoena powers, and while they might occasionally stray off into crazyville, it's virtually impossible to subvert their process from the outside. Or so we can hope.

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