Republican attack on the environment

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."

NC's environment suffers under voting public's lack of concern

Callous disregard or guilty conscience?

It’s been a big year for environmental news in North Carolina. First there was a major coal ash spill into the Dan River in February that raised concerns about water quality. And there’s been a push for more hydraulic fracturing – better known as “fracking.” It’s led to packed houses at town hall meetings across the region.

But these issues aren’t likely to change the political landscape. That’s according to Jason Husser. He’s an assistant professor of political science at Elon University and also works on the university’s poll. He spoke with WFDD’s Paul Garber about where the environment ranks among voters and where it could make a difference.

This is not surprising. For years, polls have steadily shown that only about 3% of voters put environmental concerns at the top of their list of most important issues. That may have increased slightly in the wake of the spill and the looming fracking problems, but hoping it will be a major factor in November is probably naïve. I explored some of the reasons for this in an op-ed I wrote earlier in the year:

Fighting to keep Titan Cement air quality monitor in place

The anatomy of a deregulatory nightmare:

For Castle Hayne air advocates, the most worrisome proposals from the Legislature came this year. State legislators proposed to eliminate all air monitors that are not specifically required by federal environmental regulators and to limit citizens' ability to challenge air permits in court, taking away two important tools used by citizens to challenge projects they deem risky to public health. The changes were never enacted.

The air monitor provision would have eliminated an air monitor that lies across the road from the proposed cement plant and next to an experimental field for different varieties of blueberries. The monitor is 11 miles from downtown Wilmington and measures concentrations of ozone, particulate matter and other pollutants. The other provision would have hampered advocates' ability to challenge the cement plant permit's allowances of toxic air pollutants.

The battle over the Titan Cement plant is not about a handful of overzealous advocates trying to hold back industrial growth. The coal-burning monstrosity will increase the entire state's atmospheric mercury emissions by almost 10%, and it will be located in an area that is already saturated by industrial air and water pollutants. Read the entire article, it's a good one.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Read the petition, Governor

The people want more:

Concerned North Carolinians delivered thousands of petitions to Gov. Pat McCrory's office, asking for changes to the legislation aimed at cleaning up coal ash.It became law Monday without the governor's signature.

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