Republican attack on the environment

Coal Ash Wednesday: The contamination continues

The only thing that's ceased is the outrage and determination from lawmakers to fix the problem:

The more that the scientists look, the more problems they find – for example, arsenic in a drinking water reservoir, contaminated well water, fish kills, polluted groundwater. All are unnecessary.

Every day, 3 million gallons of polluted coal ash water flow into North Carolina rivers from Duke Energy’s coal ash lagoons. Every day, groundwater is being contaminated. Every day, there is the risk of another catastrophe. It is long past time for DENR and Duke Energy to act to clean up North Carolina’s coal ash mess and protect all 14 communities and rivers across North Carolina.

And the only thing lawmakers seem to be concerned about is losing ground in their efforts to suppress women's access to health care and LGBT rights. Once again, the GOP is allowing its misogyny and bigotry to draw their focus away from real dangers, and the citizens of NC are paying the price for that lack of concern. Meanwhile, the Duke Energy happy talk express is chugging right along:

Coal Ash Commission a model of ineptitude

Undermanned, underfunded, and painfully underqualified:

Under the Coal Ash Management Act, which established the commission, Duke Energy pays $2.4 million to the state ever year in order to pay for extra staff at both the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the commission. While the commission has been ordered to oversee DENR's work and develop rules for disposing of the ash, DENR gets first dibs on the funding under the current law.

That quirk, combined with the fact that Duke pays in quarterly installments, means that the commission will have little funding to work with this year. While it has been able to hire an executive director and a part-time lawyer, a second lawyer, an engineer and other staff members are on hold until the cash flow issue can be worked out.

Bolding mine. Having an executive director with nobody to direct is about as effective as buying a Rolls Royce without an engine. Looks nice sitting in your driveway, but it ain't going anywhere.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Eden has a pep rally

Someone should tell these folks: Denial is a river in Egypt:

It's been nearly a year since thousands of tons of coal ash was dumped into the Dan River from a retired Duke Energy steam station. Since then, Eden officials have fought a public relations nightmare. On Tuesday, those same officials stood before members of the media and proclaimed, "Our rivers are thriving."

“The fishing is as good now as it was when I was a child,” says Scott Dalton, the owner of Mayodan Outdoor Sports. Dalton spoke at Tuesday’s news conference promoting the Dan River’s safety.

I don't doubt that last part. It wasn't until the late 1970's that the EPA really cracked down on industrial wastes flowing directly into rivers, so the Dan River is right now probably of a similar quality. And I don't fault the leaders of Eden for whistling past the graveyard, since a whole lot of people's livelihood is at stake. But every time they make this pitch, they're excusing Duke Energy for leaving over 90% of the spilled coal ash in the river.

Mitch Gillespie is afraid of heights

Turns down Asheville job, skulks back to Legislature:

Until this month, Mitch Gillespie had been an assistant secretary overseeing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' regulatory divisions. Newly appointed DENR Secretary Don van der Vaart had tapped him to become DENR's first "director of regional outreach" in the Asheville regional office.

Instead, he will move back to the legislature to serve as Moore's senior policy adviser for the environment, natural resources, energy and regulatory reform.

I usually defer to environmental orgs who directly interact with state government, when it comes to their opinions about individuals they have to deal with. But I have to disagree with their assessment of Gillespie. He might be congenial, but he has already done massive damage to state protections for the environment, from peeling back regulations to slashing the budget of DENR by 40+%. With friends like that...

Coal Ash Wednesday: Famous last words

The propaganda train is already rollin' down the tracks:

All coal ash brought to a former clay mine in Sanford would be transported by rail only, Duke Energy and Charah representatives said at a Sanford Environmental Advisory Board meeting Tuesday. Between rail transportation and onsite trucking, Price said there still is a zero-tolerance policy for coal ash dust.

“Once we put it in the rail car, we will spray something on it to seal it,” he said, adding that once the coal ash reaches the site, it will remain at 20 percent moisture. “As long as we keep the moisture at the 20 percent, it does not get airborne.”

Just so everybody understands what this means: The coal ash is not going to be put into those sealed hazardous waste tanker cars, it will be transported in open-top hoppers, directly exposed to the air. And they're going to wet it down at the start, and hope like hell he wind and forward motion of the train don't cause enough evaporation to dry it out (the top layers, anyway) and set it loose in the air. I think we should require them to publish the rail shipping schedule, so observers can be on site in different locations to monitor the ash trains. But I doubt they will volunteer that information.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Local opposition to proposed dump grows

Following the toxic dust trail:

Strickland said anyone living near the railroad tracks between Charlotte and Wilmington would be affected by coal ash dust contaminating the air during transport, and anyone drinking water from the Cape Fear River would be affected by potentially contaminated water. “It's not just a Lee and Chatham County thing,” she said.

According to informational sheets distributed by BREDL and EnvironmentaLee members, the Cape Fear River runs through eight counties and passes by 12 towns and parks along the way. An additional 24 towns and universities are located along the railroad from Wilmington to Sanford, and 17 towns and parks are located along the railroad from Charlotte to Sanford.

Like many of these folks, I'm finding it hard to understand the need to transport this stuff halfway across the state. If they were moving it close to a facility where it could be reused for concrete or some other process, I could get that. But just for storage? Dig a new (lined) pit beside the old one and shift it over, then put a cap on it. Unless you're intentionally trying to generate horrendous costs during the process of cleanup/disposal of your first few projects, so you can convince lawmakers or commission members to back off. It also helps if you can get your money back from ratepayers with the help of the NC Utilities Commission.

Chatham and Lee Counties' opposition to Duke Energy's coal ash dumping plans

Hat-tip to Facing South's Sue Sturgis for providing some numbers:

Tons of coal ash that Duke Energy, which has been under scrutiny since a spill last year from one of its storage ponds contaminated the Dan River, has said it plans to move from existing high-risk dumps to other sites over the next 15 years: 100 million

Responsibility Duke Energy will bear for the waste once it's dumped in the abandoned mines, thanks to a scheme in which ownership of the ash will be transferred to a subsidiary of Charah, the Kentucky-based company Duke is contracting with to handle the disposal: none

Frankly, this shuffling of responsibility for the "disposition" of toxic waste should be outlawed. It's in the best interests of not only local governments and the people they represent, but of state government as well. If this plan goes awry, with drinking water wells fouled and a massive, costly cleanup required, who do you think's going to pay for that? That's right, the taxpayers. Even if the EPA declared it a Superfund site and took Charah's subsidiary to court, history has shown that could take decades to resolve.

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