Republican attack on the environment

Duke Energy to add more carcinogens to already impaired waters

I guess they're not worried about the EPA anymore:

As part of its 2015 criminal plea agreement, Duke Energy admitted that bromide discharged into rivers and lakes from its coal ash operations have caused carcinogens to form in downstream drinking water systems. Some of these carcinogens are so dangerous that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set their health protection goal at zero, meaning that people should not be exposed to any level of these pollutants.

Yet instead of taking responsible action to halt these bromide discharges, Duke Energy is proposing to add even more bromides to its coal ash basins, through changes to its coal plant operations. Duke Energy claims that the additional bromides will reduce emissions of mercury from its smokestacks. The utility is choosing this bromide production despite the fact that other modern, widely-used technologies—such as baghouses—are available to control mercury emissions without causing carcinogens downstream.

It's actually no comfort in realizing this is probably happening all over the United States, in the wake of the Trump admin's systematic destruction of the EPA. Hopefully our new DEQ will be able to bring some relief from the inevitable deterioration of our environment, but they've been cut to the bone also.

Avangrid takes first step in Kitty Hawk offshore wind farm project

Where there's wind blowing, there's clean power to be had:

Avangrid Renewables won the bid Thursday to lease 122,405 acres off the Outer Banks coast for a wind farm. The company competed against three others before offering the winning amount of $9.1 million, according to a release from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Avangrid Renewables also built a land-based wind farm of about 22,000 acres near Elizabeth City.

Avangrid will have to set up testing towers and other equipment to assess the site before submitting a construction plan over the next approximately five years, including how many wind towers to build and how far apart to build them. The federal government will review the project and hold public hearings before construction can begin.

I am a little concerned that much of the permitting will be overseen by the Trump administration, and no doubt the puppets of the fossil fuel industry will be seeking creative ways to disrupt the process. But we'll be keeping an eye on that stuff, so they better pack more than just a lunch. Here's more about the company and its dedication to environmental stewardship:

NC's hair-raising dam safety issues not being addressed

When the levee breaks, I'll have no place to stay:

To help local and state official save lives in the event of a breach, the N.C. General Assembly included a provision in the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 requiring some dam owners to file emergency actions plans (EAPs) with the state. The plans use modeling software to help decision makers understand where water will flow should the dam breach and when to warn or evacuate homeowners who, like Fraser, often don't know a dam is nearby.

Now, more than a year after those plans were required to be in place, 1,309 of the 2,011 dams that are supposed to have them don't. Only dams defined as high-hazard or intermediate-hazard potential -- designations based on the threat and property should the dam fail -- are required to have completed documents. In counties east of or contiguous to Interstate 95, 160 of the 217 dams supposed to have an EAP do not. The 73.7 percent lacking plans in eastern North Carolina is slightly outpacing the state's 60.6 percent.

Bolding mine. As is often the case when stories like this break, there's a handy expert standing by to tell us there's really nothing to worry about. And yet, not a rainy season goes by where several dams nationwide don't lose structural integrity and fail, and North Carolina has had its share. These emergency action plans do more than tell us what we should do in case of a failure, they help us figure out what other infrastructure needs we have by modeling the flow of flood waters in the event of a dam failure. And the fact we're still below 40% compliance is outrageous. A monumental failure to serve the people, that *will* result in the loss of life and property if not rectified.

The benefits and dangers of revamping NC's renewable energy policies

Big changes could be on the horizon:

Word that the work of a large stakeholder group of industry and environmental advocates convened in early 2015 to tackle a number of energy issues would likely yield new legislation this session came in a keynote speech Friday by Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, at the University of North Carolina Institute for the Environment’s Clean Tech Summit in Chapel Hill.

“When that draft bill was shown to the groups who had been part of the collaborative process, everyone got their shorts in a wad,” McGrady said in his remarks. “Surprisingly though, in a very short period of time, the outline of an energy bill is emerging.”

Instead of taking up space on the front page with my usual long-winded rant, follow me below the fold if you're interested:

CCRC and Dogwood Alliance speak out on wood pellet plant

And Richmond County's draconian public comment rules:

The group had come to last month’s meeting to voice concerns about the Enviva plant, but were denied because of the county’s public comment policy, which states that speakers must sign up with the the board’s clerk the Friday prior to the monthly meeting.

Kim McCall, secretary of the group, said she and Debra David attempted to do so this month, but were again denied because Enviva was on the agenda. The public comment policy — which county officials said has been in place since 1997 — also does not allow for comment for an item on the agenda. McCall calls not being allowed to speak an “injustice.”

These County Commissioners might think they're being clever, but they're about to get a hell of a lot more exposure than they imagined, and not the good kind, either. Here's a few words from Emily Zucchino, fighting the good fight for the Dogwood Alliance:

Fouling the waters: Shellfish harvest put on hold by stormwater runoff

Fecal coliform bacteria levels are off the charts:

High levels of fecal bacteria have prompted state environmental officials to close some coastal and inland waters to harvesting oysters, clams and mussels. The 2,450 acres stretching across eight counties will be off-limits until further notice, state environmental officials announced.

The bacteria comes from human and animal waste that enters the stormwater, which then flows into the harvest areas. Over the past several years, above average rainfall along the coast has washed that waste into the water. The cumulative effects of that runoff emerged in recent testing that showed bacterial levels have exceeded safe levels.

This is what happens when you ignore or downplay irresponsible behavior in favor of "economic gains," or whatever the rhetorical twist of the day is. Human waste is bad enough, but when you've got ten million factory hogs and hundreds of millions of chickens and turkeys, it's no wonder the coast is drowning in shit. And of course, spraying that liquefied mess all over the surface of plowed farmland just helps it on its way downstream when the rains come. But let's not get too involved in their business, because freedom. Or something.

Environmental Injustice: Public comment stifled on Richmond County Enviva project

Tearing down the forests is apparently not enough, now they're muzzling the opposition:

A press conference will be held by The Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, a local citizen engagement group, to voice concerns about the health and environmental concerns of locating an Enviva wood pellet facility in this predominantly black community. Concerned residents have on multiple occasions attempted to address the county with their concerns, and have been repeatedly denied. On March 7th, the Richmond County Commissioners will hold their monthly meeting, and representatives from Enviva will appear to speak on the agenda. The Concerned Citizens of Richmond County have once again been denied the opportunity to speak during the public comment section.

Concerned citizens fear this facility will create harmful particulate matter and pollutants, will create constant noise and disrupt their quality of life, and clog up roads with dangerous truck traffic. The County has offered Enviva $1.6 million in direct cash incentives and property tax breaks of up to 85%, which residents oppose as a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

Press conference is this Tuesday (3/7), and there will be a rally March 25th. Please spread the word about both, because this issue touches on both deforestation and environmental justice, not to mention the stifling of public comment. The Richmond County Commissioners have set up pretty zany rules about what you can say and when:

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