Republican attack on the environment

Cooper's Veto of "Regulatory Reform Act" is right on target

Improving water quality is serious business and requires a thoughtful approach:

Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 16, the Business Regulatory Reform Act of 2017, which seeks to remove regulations in many instances. The bill extends the validity of some wastewater permits issued by local health departments that may have expired, and limits requirements for increased stormwater controls on some new developments.

"We should make it easier, not harder, for state and local governments to protect water quality, whether through stormwater safeguards or by giving public health departments the ability to revisit wastewater permits if needed. Rolling back ways to protect water quality is dangerous," Cooper said in his veto message.

There are two major contributors to the out-of-control nutrient levels in our water resources (especially Lake Jordan): Non-point source contamination (stormwater runoff) and periodic massive discharges of high-concentration wastewater, mostly from municipal treatment facilities. This bill relaxes regulations on both of them, which is exactly the opposite of what should be done. Combine that with the GOP's latest boondoggle of chemical treatment to kill algae, and *at best* you would have a break-even scenario, with no overall improvement in water quality. But it's much more likely the water quality would degrade even further. The only thing Republicans have working in their favor with this formula is the wanton destruction and corporatization of the EPA under Scott Pruitt, so the GOP likely won't get into trouble with the Federal government over this extremely reckless behavior. But they should be in (deep) trouble with the people of North Carolina for doing so.

The latest GOP Jordan Lake boondoggle: Mystery chemicals to kill algae

Several lawmakers need to be redacted from the General Assembly:

The SePro Corporation is receiving as much as $1.3 million in taxpayer money to chemically kill the algae in Jordan Lake, but the company is keeping key details of its proposal — including a full ingredient list of the products and the amounts to be released — secret from the public. The proposed chemical treatment of a drinking water source for 300,000 people is yet another questionable technique backed by some lawmakers and business interests, who have been reluctant to instead enforce rules limiting development in the Jordan Lake watershed.

SePro’s proposals were marked “confidential,” but Policy Watch obtained them under the state’s public records law. However, more than half of the eight-page document had been redacted by SePro, under a state statute allowing companies to refuse to divulge material they deem as proprietary or a trade secret.

No doubt the fact literally hundreds of toxicologists and other scientists (and their families) will be drinking that treated water comes into play here, because there's bound to be some potentially dangerous compounds used. Killing algae isn't really a straightforward process, it involves either intense oxygenation of the water and/or chemical binding with nutrients to separate them from the algae itself. And while we already use some amounts of aluminum sulfate and other chemicals to help purify water, those were studied for years before being implemented. To withhold information about chemicals being used to treat Jordan Lake (or any public drinking reservoir) because it's "proprietary" is recklessness bordering on the criminal. This project needs to be halted until full disclosure, and publicly-monitored studies, have been done.

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:

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:

"Not off our coast." Governor Cooper comes out swinging against offshore drilling

No ambiguity at all in this statement:

“It’s clear that opening North Carolina’s coast to oil and gas exploration and drilling would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities—and for little potential gain,” said Gov. Cooper. “As Governor, I’m here to speak out and take action against it. I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast.”

A potential oil spill could decimate North Carolina’s coastal tourism and commercial fishing industries, both major economic drivers for the region. Coastal tourism in North Carolina generates more than $3 billion annually, supporting more than 30,000 jobs.

Boom. What a difference between this man and McCrory, who actually invited Big Oil to set up shop in his own office. Which became the headquarters for the Outer Continental Shelf Governor's Association, who were hell-bent on scattering offshore oil rigs all over the Southeastern seaboard, and allowed industry reps to dominate what were supposed to be public hearings in coastal communities. Just one more reason the voters kicked McCrory to the curb.

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