Republican attack on the environment

NC Supreme Court "snatches" Hofmann Forest case from CoA

But it's doubtful they're coming to the rescue of said forest:

In a surprising move, the N.C. Supreme Court decided Friday that it will hear the long-running and controversial Hofmann Forest case before the state Court of Appeals rules on it. The Supreme Court “snatch” -- in the words of Ron Sutherland, one of the case’s lead plaintiffs -- is but the latest twist in a long-running saga full of them.

The second theory is that the Supreme Court, which has a majority of conservative judges, simply wanted to decide the case instead of letting a more unpredictable appeals court make the ruling, which was due any day. “We hope that this is not the reason,” Sutherland said. “It would be a rather blatant act. But it’s hard to say exactly what the motivation might have been. If it’s this second theory that’s right, all we can do is encourage people to vote for good, honest judges who will look at this case fairly and make what we think is the right decision.”

I can tell you with about 90% accuracy what the motivation was: If the Supremes waited for the CoA's decision, like they usually do, the scope of their approach to the case and subsequent actions (rulings) would have been limited/dictated by the CoA's opinions. By pre-empting the CoA, the higher court can argue based on a smaller set of legal principles and precedent. In other words, they don't want the input of the CoA, and that usually only happens when somebody has already made up their mind. The life expectancy of Hofmann Forest just got a lot shorter.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Hundreds of NC drinking water wells at risk

And every one of them should be tested:

Duke Energy officials have identified 830 private and public drinking water supply wells near the company’s 32 coal ash storage ponds in North Carolina, according to an initial survey the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources released on Friday. Duke Energy conducted the survey to meet a requirement of the Coal Ash Management Act, which recently became state law.

DENR staff members are reviewing the surveys to determine which wells should be sampled first, and how frequently and how long sampling should continue. The determination will be completed based on the hydrologic potential for impacts to the drinking water wells. The sampling plan can be amended as additional information is gathered about the flow of groundwater and the extent of any detected contamination.

One of the best (only?) ways to determine the flow of groundwater is to test for the migration of specific elements, and the easiest way to do that is to, you know, test all the fricking wells. You can speculate about the flow by examining (what we believe) is the nature of the sub-strata, but computer models won't be much consolation to a family exposed to contamination.

Another NCSU professor wearing two hats

Objectivity in the fracking debate is becoming more elusive every day:

People curious about fracking in North Carolina attended an informational panel Saturday afternoon. Panel speakers were Viney Aneja, professor at N.C. State University; Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack, a member of the N.C. Mining Energy Commission that is writing rules; and Hope Taylor, a fracking critic and director of Clean Water for North Carolina.

Aneja began the panel presentation by explaining the process of fracking and how it has worked in other states. He said he wanted to offer the benefits and disadvantages on the industry in the state. "Let us not be afraid of this industry," Aneja said. "Let us have the good science that we have today and make a decision based on that science."

No, Aneja isn't a geologist, he specializes in atmospheric (air) pollution. An issue that has been the subject of much research recently re fracking, as we try to determine just how much methane escapes into the atmosphere throughout the process. But he isn't just an academic, Aneja is also a "specialist" for a business consulting firm, which has natural gas drillers, coal mining companies, and other energy-related industries as clients:

Energy Summit draws industry reps and protestors

The happy talk express gets derailed:

Three protesters disrupted proceedings inside, shouting at speakers Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory, who responded to their calls against offshore drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” Continuing, McCrory added, referring to the protester: “And for that individual and other individuals who will now get in their car and fill up with gas or turn on their air conditioner or heater, they’re using energy from the same sources that they’re protesting against.”

That prompted another protester to call out at McCrory before being escorted out. Rob Kaiser, publisher of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, who emceed the event and interviewed McCrory, spoke over the outburst to ask the governor how such environmental concerns are balanced with business interests.

And he just became part of the story instead of reporting it. This forum may not have been set up to allow questions/comments from the audience, but a journalist who drowns out somebody else's voice, even if he's trying to "smooth things over" and get some kind of answer the reporter thinks may address the protestor's concerns, is no journalist at all. He's a pundit, and we have more than enough of those. As to the Governor himself, his illogical mouth runneth over:

Coal Ash Wednesday: What do you think?

Coalition of government agencies seeking public input on mitigation efforts:

Love the Dan River? Hate what happened to it in this winter’s coal ash spill? Got an idea for fixing some of the damage? A government committee with a highfalutin’ title wants to hear from you, possibly adopt all or part of your plan, and stick Duke Energy with the bill for carrying it out.

The group’s trustees released its “Scoping Document for Restoration Planning for Public Review and Comment” late last week, seeking public input on ways to undo damage the spill has caused to fish and wildlife, migratory birds, places in the river and wetlands where these creatures live, people’s recreational opportunities, and surface water and sediment. The initiative stems from an agreement Duke Energy signed in June with Uncle Sam and the two states, accepting its role in causing the spill and agreeing to restore the river, to the extent possible.

I have a feeling Duke Energy's definition of "to the extent possible" would differ greatly from what you or I might define it as. That being said, large rivers affect multiple ecosystems, and there's always a lot that should be done, coal ash spill or not. This appears to be an opportunity to maybe get some of these things done:

While coal ash ponds leak, Duke Energy patches holes in its image

One more example of the utility's misplaced priorities:

One of the worst accidents in Duke Energy's history turned out to be a big opportunity for a fledgling creative agency and video production shop in the shadows of the utility company's headquarters.

In two weeks during the spring, Wheelhouse worked with Duke to develop a concept, write scripts, shoot and edit video, complete post-production and launch the "It's Important" ad campaign. The series of 30-second spots played on TV, radio and online. "They needed a quick response and there wasn't time to go through a traditional agency," Williams says.

No, they needed a quick response to locate large deposits of the coal ash they spilled, so those concentrations could be removed from the riverbed ecosystem. Instead, they picked a spot where everybody could see them working, and ended up leaving 95% of the coal ash in the river. And now they've spent God knows how much money on radio and television ads since the spill, which we'll probably end up paying for via rate increases, and those other ash ponds are still in the same (bad) condition they've always been.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy to recreate the wheel, says it has a rounder version in mind

Reassessing water that's already been reassessed:

Duke Energy has met its first deadline under the regulatory framework codified in the state’s new coal ash law, providing regulators with detailed plans for assessing the groundwater issues at its 14 operating and retired coal plants.

Environmental groups have criticized the state for requiring the new assessment program. They contend the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources already has evidence of leaks from Duke coal ash ponds into groundwater.

There is abundant evidence that Duke Energy's water quality testing protocol is miserably flawed. Both DWQ and third party testing have found much higher concentrations of toxins than reported by the utility, so all this reassessment will accomplish is more conflicting data, and more delays for remediation. Future headline: "Duke Energy tests have confirmed coal ash ponds much safer than previously reported."

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