Coal Ash Wednesday: Insurance companies say "Nope" on paying for cleanup

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One big reason Duke Energy is trying to make us pay:

Dozens of insurance companies say they’re not obligated to help pay for Duke Energy Corp.’s multi-billion dollar coal ash cleanup because the nation’s largest electric company long knew about but did nothing to reduce the threat of potentially toxic pollutants.

The claim is in a filing by lawyers for nearly 30 international and domestic insurance companies that were sued by Duke Energy in March to force them to cover part of the utility’s coal ash cleanup costs in the Carolinas.

In a perfect world, the NC Utilities Commission would be keeping a close eye on this civil case, and if the defendants prove their case that Duke Energy was at fault and should be responsible for shouldering the costs of cleaning up their coal ash, the NCUC would deny Duke's rate increase request on the same grounds. And if Duke Energy won against the insurance companies and they were forced to pay, then there would be no need to jack up our rates. But we don't live in that perfect world, and Duke Energy is notorious for being able to conceal the big picture when they want something. Here's more:

Wednesday News: Turncoats

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BURR AND TILLIS VOTE TO MOVE FORWARD ON DAMAGING HEALTHCARE LEGISLATION: Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis of North Carolina voted to proceed with debate on Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, keeping alive their party’s attempt to keep a long-standing campaign promise. Republicans needed ailing Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who recently was diagnosed with brain cancer, to return to Washington to get to 50 votes, allowing Vice President Mike Pence to cast the tie-breaking vote to move forward with debate. Two Republicans – Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski – voted against the motion to proceed as did all 48 senators who caucus with Democrats.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article16...

Tuesday News: Getting out while the getting's good

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CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER QUITS UNDER TREASURER DALE FOLWELL: Kevin SigRist, the chief investment officer for the $94 billion state pension fund the past four years, has unexpectedly resigned. Folwell has cut fees paid to outside money managers by more than $60 million on an annualized basis, easily exceeding his campaign promise to slash fees by $100 million during the course of his four-year term. In conjunction with that cost-cutting, Folwell has shifted billions of dollars previously invested in stocks into investment-grade bonds and cash – for example, investing in things such as short-term U.S. Treasury bills. At times, according to internal memos reviewed by The News & Observer, Folwell has overruled the recommendations of the pension fund’s investment staff in shifting those funds out of stocks. Critics say the pension fund’s potential returns are being reduced because stocks typically outperform bonds and cash.
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article163373913.html

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The show is about to begin, but nobody knows what it's about:

And if you want to see what it is, you'll have to buy the ticket first:

Is Raleigh's Airbnb kerfuffle turning into the new "Free Market" battlefield?

A business model in dire need of government regulation:

Like many cities, Raleigh is grappling with how to regulate Airbnb and companies like it. Unlike hotels and traditional bed and breakfasts, Airbnb is unregulated in most places. In Raleigh, Airbnb hosts don't collect or pay state or local sales tax, or the local hotel occupancy tax, which in Wake County is set at 6 percent. Airbnb rentals aren't required to get a business license or special-use permit. Nor do they have to submit to health and safety inspections. Hosts don't even have to tell their neighbors that they're renting rooms, though the information is publicly available on Airbnb's website.

Personally, I have no desire to spend the night in a stranger's house, and my one experience with a bonafide B&B was a little too personal, if you catch my drift. My door got knocked on like six times, and I was barely able to keep Evil Steve from yelling, "What now, for God's sake!" But that's just me. The above article is from 2 1/2 years ago, but the "task force" empaneled to solve this problem just recently hammered out some recommendations for a proposed ordinance. Pay close attention to who is co-chairing the group:

Monday News: Channeling Goebbels?

TRUMP'S NEW PRESS SECRETARY SCARAMUCCI HINTS AT PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN: President Donald Trump's new communications adviser says it's time to hit the "reset button." Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci pledged to begin "an era of a new good feeling" and said he hopes to "create a more positive mojo." He also promised to crack down on information leaks and pledged to better focus the message coming from the White House. To that end, Scaramucci suggested changes to come, noting: "I have in my pocket a radio studio, a television studio, and a movie studio. The entire world has changed; we need to rethink the way we're delivering our information."
http://www.newsobserver.com/latest-news/article163190198.html

Sen. Berger Losing Support in Home District

In case you missed it, Sen Berger is taking a bit of heat back home as the largest employer in Eden, Morehead Memorial Hospital, files for Chapter 11. The hospital cited a decline in revenues from competition from larger hospitals and NC's failure to expand Medicaid as why they needed to do this. For the immediate future, the hospital's 700 jobs are 'safe.' At least, they are as safe as jobs at any company that has filed for bankruptcy.

One constituent's Letter to the Editor says it all:

Failing hospitals

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages

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GOVERNOR COOPER MUST MAKE SAFE WATER TOP PRIORITY: Even amid the General Assembly’s efforts to shrink and minimize the regulatory authority of state agencies, it remains a basic function of government to assure the safety of its citizens – in this case that the water they drink won’t kill them. The Cooper administration needs to remain vigilant and be sure the advisory board fulfills its mandate. Regan and Secretary Mandy Cohen, his counterpart in the Department of Health and Human Services, need to work together, openly, so citizens are assured the rules and regulations are established in an open and transparent matter. Further, the first priority is public safety not the political posture of any public officials or the financial interests of powerful companies.
http://www.wral.com/editorial-cooper-must-make-safe-water-is-top-priority/16825586/

DuPont/Chemours plant still discharging GenX despite promise to cease

Playing a dangerous game with the health of downstream citizens:

Chemours said on June 21 it would voluntarily stop discharging GenX into the Cape Fear from its Fayetteville plant. On June 27, the NCDEQ verified Chemours had stopped.

However, the NCDEQ said on July 12 that additional sources of GenX were still being discharged into the river from the Chemours site after June 27.

On July 13, NCDEQ confirmed that the discharging of GenX from the Chemours complex had ended.

This timeline shows the folly of NC regulators' tendency to prefer self-regulation by private companies over applying strict rules. That "voluntary" decision to stop discharges just happened to coincide with water testing that was in process, so the declaration was already suspect. But that promise also (apparently) superseded/supplanted the need for DEQ to order them to stop. Chemours beat them to the punchline, and they may have done so because they knew more discharges would be needed to get rid of that crap, and were relying on regulatory ambiguity to continue a little longer. Whatever the case, they broke their promise, and DEQ needs to take appropriate steps before they end up owning part of this disaster. Here's a warning to stockholders from the Motley Fool:

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