Republican attack on the environment

Offshore drilling opponents on the coast get boost from Asheville

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Would that all NC's major cities show the same support:

Since the spring of 2017 when a shift in policy by the Trump administration caused the prospect of offshore oil and gas exploration off the North Carolina coast to reemerge as real possibility, local governments from Currituck to Calabash have steadily weighed in, passing resolutions in opposition and in some cases multiple times. About 40 of the coastal region’s municipalities and all but two coastal county boards — Carteret and Brunswick — have put their opposition to paper.

One of the latest additions to that list, however, could be a sign that other parts of the state are lining up against new leases as well. In late April, the Asheville City Council unanimously passed a resolution against both offshore drilling and seismic testing.

Aside from Lousiana's Mississippi Delta region, I'm not sure there is another state whose coastal area is as vulnerable to toxic spills as North Carolina's. Spilled oil could (and would) easily migrate deep into our tidal wetlands, and there's no fixing that. It would be devastating to not only fish and other waterborne species, but also migrating birds. Having Cooper in the Governor's mansion is a huge relief, especially considering McCrory turned his office into the damn headquarters of the drilling effort:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Trump's EPA bows to industry pressure

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Nixing rule requiring power plants to show financial capability to clean up spills:

The Trump administration said Tuesday that it won't require electric utilities to show they have money to clean up hazardous spills from power plants despite a history of toxic coal ash releases contaminating rivers and aquifers. Environmental Protection Agency officials said Tuesday that modern industry practices and recently enacted regulations are sufficient to shield taxpayers from potential cleanup costs.

The finding comes after the EPA last year reversed a related proposal under President Barack Obama that would have imposed new financial requirements on the hardrock mining industry.

On paper anyway, the difference between "taxpayers" and "ratepayers" is substantial. But in reality, there really isn't much difference. All taxpayers also pay power bills, and when the NCUC bows to Duke Energy demands to raise their rates to pay for spills and safe disposal of coal ash, taxpayers are footing the bill. And this is not an academic exercise:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Chatham County ash pit leaking dangerous toxins

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Charah needs to answer some questions like yesterday:

State regulators have asked the operator of a Chatham County landfill where coal ash is being stored to come up with a plan to address high levels of toxic elements found in nearby water. The Brickhaven site near Moncure is a former clay mine that the state Department of Environmental Quality approved four years ago to be used as a lined landfill for coal ash being moved from unlined pits at Duke Energy power plants.

DEQ's Division of Waste Management sent a letter to Brickhaven operator Charah Inc. on Friday, noting that levels of barium, chloride, chromium, cobalt and vanadium were found at levels higher than state standards in various groundwater monitoring wells over time. In addition, high levels of arsenic, cobalt, copper, lead and zinc were found in nearby surface water.

In theory, the clay located at this particular site should have provided a good impermeable layer to block seepage. But generally speaking, when a mine is "played out," there's not enough (of whatever it is) left over to continue operating. Whatever the case, this just drives home the message that bottom liners are the only way to ensure leachate doesn't get into the groundwater. But thanks to decades of criminal negligence by coal plant operators, only 5% of the nation's ash pits have those liners:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Cap-in-place is the industry's new Plan A

Just when Illinois thought it was making progress:

The approved version of the Illinois bill had broad support from environmental advocates, even though some of the provisions they sought had been softened. Introduced in January by state Sen. Scott Bennett, the original version would have required the full removal of coal ash from storage pits and would have limited the repurposing of coal ash for uses like creating cement and concrete. After resistance from Dynegy, a Texas-based electric utility and subsidiary of Vistra Energy, as well as from the Illinois Farm Bureau and local waste management association, the legislation was modified.

In the final version, coal plant owners have the option to cover the ash pits with soil and leave the waste where it is, known as "cap in place." Operators would first have to conduct an environmental review to show the method would be equally protective as removing the coal ash.

There is really only one legitimate result of that review: In the absence of a bottom liner, there is no "equal protection." The only potential locations where cap-in-place might be comparable to a lined pit are those with densely-packed clay. North Carolina has a few locations that might work, but (unless I'm mistaken) none of our current coal ash impoundments meet that criteria. And Illinois is even worse, thanks to glaciation that gave that state some of the best soil in the world. In other words, an across-the-board approval of cap-in-place with no consideration of geologic strata is just bad policy. And of course Trump's EPA is making this issue even worse:

Republican attacks on renewable energy continue

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Here's hoping Santa gives them a lump of coal ash in their stockings this year:

A three-year ban on new wind farms throughout much of eastern North Carolina cleared the Senate Wednesday on a divided vote.

Sponsors said, much as they did last week, that they hope to remove the moratorium language from the bill before it's final. But Senate Bill 377 moved from the Senate to the House with the moratorium language intact and would ban windmills in wide swaths of the state to protect corridors military pilots use for training.

If they really wanted to remove the moratorium, they would have (should have) already done so. As it stands, this is the equivalent of a used car salesman saying, "Buy this car as it is, and we'll have our mechanics fix it for you when they get a chance." It's not just wind energy, Solar Farms are also in the GOP's crosshairs:

For people in Wilmington, GenX is still a mystery

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And one that desperately needs to be solved:

It's been two years since communities surrounding the Cape Fear River found out their water supply had been contaminated by a compound known as GenX, part of the group of hazardous chemicals called PFAS. Today, New Hanover County residents say they still need answers.

Emily Donovan, who co-founded the group Clean Cape Fear, said local residents remain in the dark. "A lack of information does not equal 'safe,' and that's where we have been living for the last two years," she said. "We've been living with a lack of information, and we're being continually told the water is still safe to drink."

One of the most frustrating aspects of this problem is the "locked vault" when dealing with industrial chemical compounds. No doubt Chemours has a ton of information about GenX, but between preserving trade secrets and shielding the company from legal exposure, that information might as well not exist:

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