Duke Energy

Coal Ash Wednesday: Charah and the "beneficial" use of CCRs

From your sidewalk to your dinner table, the coal ash could end up anywhere:

It's a Thursday, November 3, 2011 afternoon in Frankfort. State legislators on the Natural Resources and Environment Committee are having their little meeting. (minutes) Questions are getting answers. Oh, and Danny Gray, president of Charah®, Inc. he's there.

Question: "Is coal ash fed to livestock?"

"Commissioner Scott said no. However, Commissioner Scott noted that research is currently being done using CCRs (Coal Combustion Residuals) in gardening, and it could be considered a beneficial re-use." Gray, who probably has about zero environmental credentials, also volunteered, "CCRs can be used in wallboard, cement, and in forage crops."

Bolding mine. The company that is planning to dump store Duke Energy-generated coal ash in Lee County is also an industry leader in finding profitable ways to sweep this toxic stuff under the rug. Or beside the River:

When is a dump not a dump?

It's a great big hole in the ground that's going to be filled with waste materials. Lee County officials say that's a dump. State officials say it's not.

Lee commissioners’ chairman Charlie Parks says the Duke-Charah plan appears to be a safe use for ash – except for what they call it.

“We think this is a landfill like anything else,” he said. “You can call it what you want, but it’s a hole in the ground and you’re filling it up.”

Living in Dukeville: The epitome of corporate irresponsibility

Just one more reason Duke Energy can't be trusted:

"It's bad to live in the United States and don't have good water to drink," said Ron, whose family farm sits just a couple hundred yards from the plant's three ponds housing more than 5 million tons of coal ash. "One neighbor is even bathing her young children in bottled water," JoAnne added, explaining that many in their community are worried about their drinking water.

"It's terrible," explained Dukeville resident Tyson Beaver. "We immediately switched from drinking well water and started buying bottled water to drink and to cook with and to wash dishes."

Water contamination is the main issue where fracking and coal ash converge, and what's happening in Dukeville will soon be happening in numerous other communities across the state. The Legislature needs to pass a bill (don't hold your breath) that will dictate whoever contaminates private drinking water wells must supply fresh water to replace the tainted water, at the expense of the entity who tainted the well. That's not radical, it's the bare minimum of what we expect from our elected officials.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Sanford stuck between clay and a hard place

This is one battle they've already lost:

“In the early 90s, Waste Management tried to put a landfill out at the same site that was just purchased by Chara,” Crumpton continued. “Then there was an attempt in 2006 where D H Griffin was trying to site a construction and demolition debris landfill out in the Cumnock area.” Chara is the landfill management company Duke Energy contracted to supervise and operate the coal ash storage sites in Lee and Chatham counties.

The difference between past attempts at putting landfills in Lee County and Duke’s plan to transfer coal ash from Mount Holly and Wilmington to the 410-acre site off Post Office Road is that, pending approval from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the plan to store coal ash in Lee County is a done deal.

Granted, taking advantage of an already-existing impermeable layer of clay for coal ash storage is smart, but communities should still be able to reject such projects if a majority of the citizens don't approve. Giving Duke Energy carte blanche to put that crap anywhere they want in the state is a recipe for disaster, because money (cost) will eventually be their only concern. That's how we got into this mess in the first place.

You get what you vote for

The good folks of Lee County are up in arms about Duke Energy & Pollution's plan to dump coal ash in Sanford and Moncure.

If the comments made during a meeting inside the Lee County Board of Commissioners Room Monday night are any indication, Lee County residents do not want coal ash in their backyards.

“Who invited this idea,” one resident asked. “Why weren’t we notified sooner? And what is the purpose of bringing coal ash to our area?”

“If the coal ash dumping is so desirable, then why aren't the CEOs from Duke Power and their neighbors fighting to have it in their backyards,” another resident said.

Coal ash commission: sorry, no Democrats allowed

Demonstrating their usual level of diversity, DAG McCrony and Tillisberger could not find one single Democrat who is qualified to fill one of the nine positions on the state's coal ash commission, set to meet for the first time tomorrow.

Coal Ash Wednesday: SELC doing the jobs of ineffective regulators

Begging the question: What are we paying those regulators for?

Following lawsuits by SELC, two of the three utilities in the Carolinas -- South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper -- are removing coal ash from unlined pits near rivers to dry, lined storage facilities away from rivers and lakes. SELC is currently representing dozens of groups in 10 state and federal lawsuits to address 14 leaking coal ash sites maintained by Duke Energy throughout North Carolina.

For decades, the EPA has developed and issued guidelines to individual states on how to comply with Federal statutes on clean air and water, because the enforcement "arm" of this system relies on state environmental agencies. But due to mostly Republican oversight of these state operations, that part of the job is not getting done. The bottom line is, SELC isn't engaging in "activism" or some other hot-button term, they are stepping into an empty space where a state government regulator should be standing, and yet Republican leaders in the General Assembly would have us blame them for "meddling." Business as usual for the GOP, break something and then blame those who try to fix it.

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.

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.

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