Republican attack on the environment

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy profits up 27%

I'm sure the surviving fish in the Dan River will be impressed:

Duke earned nearly $1.3 billion for the quarter, compared to $1 billion a year earlier, on $6.4 billion in revenue. Earnings per share of $1.80 were boosted 43 cents by the sale in the Midwest. Adjusted for such one-time events, earnings were $1.40 a share compared to the $1.46 of the same period last year and below analysts’ estimates of $1.52.

The company estimated its costs under North Carolina’s coal ash legislation, which mandates that Duke close its 32 coal ash ponds by 2029, at $3.4 billion. That figure is likely to change, but Duke had previously told regulators it could cost as much as $10 billion to close the ponds.

Yes, they told the regulators that before the Legislature's coal ash bill was finished and voted on, so the "scare tactics" are no longer necessary. I would normally have more to say about this, but it's apparent way too many NC voters are asleep at the wheel.

Duke University research tainted with fracking dollars

I thought I smelled something funky about this:

Shale gas drilling generates sufficient taxes and fees to cover the costs of local government services, such as road repair, waste water services and emergency services, according to a study by Duke University researchers.

Richard Newell and Daniel Raimi of Duke’s Energy Initiative concluded that regions with active drilling generally experience financial benefits from fracking activity.

As to that "road repair" observation, you may want to tell that to the folks in Pennsylvania who are tearing their cars to pieces bumping along what used to be a decent road system. Doubtless much of their other findings are arguable, but right now I'm more concerned with what's fueling the findings:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Putting lipstick on a toxic pig

Duke Energy's "philanthropy" geared towards area beautification, not watershed protection:

The foundation is particularly interested in receiving applications from economic development programs that would enhance “community beautification and maintenance with a measurable impact on increasing tourism, business and population growth within the county.”

In the environmental category, RCCF seeks programs “that have a visible impact on the local community, such as outdoor classrooms or environmental signage along trails, (and) walkways along the river.”

While this $10 million from Duke Energy was a voluntary donation and had no regulatory requirements attached, the "visible impact" qualifier for use of these funds makes it part of their wider public relations efforts. Most of the real work that is done safeguarding and enhancing water quality is not visible to the average passerby, but it's much more important than streetscaping or posting a sign by a trail.

Coal Ash Wednesday: McCrory says environmental orgs should help pay for cleanup

Instead of spending their money on political ads against him:

The theme of the spots has been that new regulations the governor signed are too lax. They conclude with the message that the governor “has coal ash on his hands,” showing an image of dirty palms.

"I think it's just a total waste of money," McCrory told reporters during a tour of SAS in Cary. "They ought to be spending their money to clean up the environment ... not on ridiculous, negative political TV ads."

There's more than one mess that needs to be cleaned up. North Carolina's political mess is quite possibly more dangerous to our natural resources than coal ash impoundments, because it encompasses everything from fracking and offshore drilling to the relaxation of air and water quality regulations that keep industry and developers in check. And the only way to clean up that particular mess is to remove the GOP contamination of the General Assembly and the Governor's mansion.

Skvarla losing the Op-Ed battle over DENR-approved pollution

It's better to let someone think you're an idiot than clicking the "send" button and proving it:

The recent attack on The Fayetteville Observer's journalistic integrity by the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was unfounded. In a letter to the editor ("Coal-ash pond editorial challenged," Oct. 14), Secretary John Skvarla attempted to defend his agency's decision to allow pumping of contaminated water into North Carolina's rivers and lakes from Duke Energy's coal ash sites across the state without permits, controls and limits - or public disclosure and input.

Under Secretary Skvarla's leadership, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources touts customer service, and its actions indicate those customers served are the polluters, not the public. DENR and its secretary should instead direct their energies toward protecting our waters for the people and families of North Carolina.

Every time Skvarla tries to sell the public on the idea that he knows what he's doing, he just demonstrates more convincingly that he doesn't. I was going to say, "It's like struggling in quicksand." But it's more like seeing a patch of quicksand and just hopping in. Painfully stupid.

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.

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