Republican attack on the environment

Hager tries to pull a fast one, gets caught

And we can all breathe easier, for now anyway:

"Representative Hager’s amendment removes the only statutory requirement for the EMC to move forward with regulation of air pollution from natural gas development. It does so without any legislative committee review or opportunity for public debate," McCallie wrote. Had the amendment remained attached to the bill, the state Senate could have sent the measure to the governor without a public hearing or committee examination.

"I really don't believe this amendment ought to be part of this bill," Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said of the measure. Hager shot back, saying, "Don't fool yourself ... this is about folks who don't like energy exploration."

Nice try, sport. Now put that ad hominem club back in the bag, and go home and lick your wounds.

Coastal Republicans fighting offshore wind

Unless they can get paid nicely for it, that is:

The Brunswick County Commissioners said they still need more information before they can take any formal stance on the topic, but the board unanimously voted at its regular meeting Feb. 16 to send a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opposing wind turbines off the North Carolina coast until its concerns have been adequately addressed.

One of the biggest concerns from the board was how the beach towns would benefit financially, if at all, from offshore wind farms.

And in answer to the question that just surfaced in your mind, no, they don't have all these same concerns and demands about offshore drilling as they do with renewable wind energy:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Friday news dump with Kool-Aid chaser

It's pretty bad when Florida doesn't approve of your behavior:

The country's biggest power company, the parent of Duke Energy Florida, invoked a classic PR move last week by issuing a news release at 4:20 p.m. on a Friday, shortly before the end of the workweek.
That timing often signals something bad has happened that the culprit hopes will get ignored in the weekend crush.

After reading Duke's spin, I felt like I should send flowers to the company for going the extra mile in hard times. But let's skip the Kool-Aid and look at what Duke chose not to acknowledge. Duke's is not pursuing a "proposed agreement" but pleading guilty to multiple environmental crimes — nine violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

All things considered, it is a fairly hefty fine for environmental wrongdoings. The massive TVA spill of a few years before, which released over a billion gallons of coal ash downstream, only cost the TVA $11.5 million in fines and $27.8 million in a class-action suit from affected landowners. But the funny (or not-so-funny) thing about comparing the two is: TVA has cleaned up and properly disposed of between 75%-85% of that 1.1 billion gallons spilled, while Duke Energy left over 90% of their spilled coal ash in the Dan River. One of many reasons their $102 million in fines is simply not enough.

For Duke Energy, everything is negotiable

Even their "punishment" for crimes committed:

Federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, accusing the company of violating the federal Clean Water Act by illegally dumping millions of gallons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina. They also accused the company of failing to maintain equipment around at least two plants.

Duke said Friday that it had already negotiated a plea agreement under which it expected to pay fines.

And in true cart-before-the-horse fashion, the fines just happen to be slightly larger than the dollar figure Duke decided it was prepared to pay...when? A few months ago? If this investigation and the charges that resulted are supposed to make us feel better about how justice is rendered in this country, it's a big, fat failure.

Astroturfing NC's offshore drilling debate

The American Petroleum Institute's puppets proxies invade Wrightsville Beach forum:

About 160 people showed up at the Coastline Conference and Events Center, the former train station, to grab a free sandwich at what was billed as an Offshore Energy Luncheon. The N.C. Energy Forum provided the eats. If you never heard of it, you’re forgiven. It is one of 27 state groups that are part of a larger effort known as America’s Energy Forum, which notes on its website that it is comprised of “concerned citizens committed to two goals – achieving energy security for our country and holding our elected officials more accountable in shaping energy policies.”

Some have disparaged the forum as a fake grassroots group. The Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch calls it an “astroturf” project of the American Petroleum Institute, or API, the largest trade group of oil and gas producers in the country. API admits to it, though you have to search pretty hard to find it. There it is, though, at the bottom of the forum website in tiny type: “Sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.” David McGowan III, the executive director of the N.C. Petroleum Council – an API group – later confirmed the affiliation in an email.

Unfortunately, a certain portion of our population have always been prone to believe unscrupulous salesmen and the "magic elixirs" they peddle, and the fossil fuel industry has become a master at creating organizations like Americans For Prosperity and other groups who use naïve people to help them increase their profit margins. It's all about the dogma, usually with a flag flapping in the background:

Coal Ash Wednesday: The $100 million bribe

When buying off a grand jury is simply the cost of doing business:

Duke Energy expects to pay $100 million to resolve a federal criminal grand jury investigation of its coal ash management, the company said in an earnings report Wednesday.

“The company expects a proposed agreement could be reached and filed in the next several days for consideration by the court,” Duke said in its earnings report. “If approved, the proposed agreement would resolve the ongoing grand jury investigation of the company’s coal ash basin management.”

I wasn't aware you could "settle" a criminal investigation, at least not openly and brazenly. Then again, this is Duke Energy we're talking about; they have their own set of rules "governing" their behavior, that usually hinge on sacred words and numbers like these:

Coal Ash Wednesday: The deadly ingredients

Thanks to Physicians for Social Responsibility for outlining the harms:

Arsenic: It has long been known that arsenic, if ingested in very high levels, is deadly. However, lower levels of exposure are also harmful and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; anemia and decreased production of the white, infection-fighting blood cells; abnormal heart rhythms; blood vessel damage; numbness in the hands and feet; partial paralysis; and decreased vision, even blindness. Repeated low levels of exposure over an extended period of time can produce effects similar to a one-time high level of exposure, and chronic exposure to low levels can cause skin cancer. Arsenic has also been linked to cancers of the lung, bladder, kidney, liver and prostate.

Contaminated drinking water is a primary route of arsenic exposure. Exposure from birth may increase urinary cancer risk much later in life, suggesting that people whose drinking water is contaminated by arsenic from coal ash should be monitored long-term for this cancer, even if they stop drinking the contaminated water.

I know a lot of environmental advocates who are energetic as all get-out, but lacking somewhat in the details. Energy is important, but you need some basic factual tools at your disposal if you want to persuade others the danger is real. Understanding the toxics involved and their deleterious effect on our health is likely the best tool you could wield in that effort:

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