Duke Energy

Coal Ash Wednesday: Swimming in industry propaganda

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Duke Energy hires a professional liar to represent their interests:

Rudo and Duke’s expert, Lisa Bradley, a nationally known expert in coal ash toxicology, also clashed over the chemical element vanadium. They split over whether the state had issued “do not drink” recommendations to dozens of well owners based on vanadium findings less than those people routinely encounter safely in everyday life.

“So you’re getting more in your daily vitamin than you would drinking water at that screening level,” Bradley said of the state’s trigger level for issuing “do not drink” warnings for vanadium found in wells.

Wall Street is betting you and I will pay for coal ash cleanup

And Duke Energy shareholders are already reaping the benefits:

The aforementioned state legislation imposed a moratorium on Duke from seeking any sort of rate increase related to the clean-up through mid-January this year. But last week, the ratings agency Fitch upgraded Duke’s credit rating, in part reflecting the “significant, albeit manageable” coal-ash clean-up costs, as well as its expectation that the costs incurred will be recoverable from ratepayers.

Clearly, the market believes Duke will recover costs via ratepayers. The stock hit a high at the end of January, before the general correction in utilities sparked a selloff.

Once again we're entering the "tail wagging the dog" territory, where the stock market determines business behavior instead of the other way around, like it's supposed to. The same thing happened leading up to the mortgage crisis, and you see where that got us. Due to the NC Utilities Commission's bent responsibility to ensure utilities remain "profitable," Duke Energy can legally argue that not allowing them to recover costs from ratepayers will bring down their stock values, thus hurting their overall profits. The fact that Duke's stock price was artificially inflated in anticipation of the NCUC's ruling will not even be mentioned, unless the public representative or somebody like NCWARN brings it up. That's no way to do the people's business.

Coal Ash Wednesday: 12 more NC sites to be excavated

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And the people in Chatham and Lee Counties said, "Wait, what?"

The residue of coal burned to generate power will be removed from 12 more waste pits at plants in Moncure, Goldsboro, Lumberton and Mooresboro, the country's largest electric company said. Most of the ash, which contains toxic heavy metals, would be moved to former open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties.

"We're making strong progress to protect groundwater and close ash basins, delivering on our commitment to safe, sustainable, long-term solutions," Duke Energy Chief Executive Officer Lynn Good said in a written statement.

That makes a total of (I believe) 20 coal ash impoundments that will be re-dumped into 2 counties. If the new impoundments hold, and the numerous coal trains don't scatter dust all over the place, this should be a net positive. Of course, I don't live in either of those counties, and I hesitate to gloss over their concerns. We'll keep watching.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Restoring the Dan River

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Mitigation planners are seeking public input for projects:

A state-federal team is seeking public comment on its plan to assess natural resource damage from Duke Energy’s 2014 spill of coal ash into the Dan River.

Federal law lets state and federal agencies pursue claims against Duke to restore, replace or acquire natural resources equal to those that were damaged, and to seek cash compensation.

Trustees have already determined the types of projects that should be considered (see page 27 of the Plan large pdf), which includes conservation acquisitions, buffer zones, and recreational (boating & swimming) access. The public has until July 17 to submit input to: Sara Ward, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 33726, Raleigh 27636-3726, or Sara_Ward@fws.gov.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Sutton plant leaking like a sieve

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And Duke Energy is more concerned with legal battles than safe drinking water:

Tests have found elevated levels of boron, a metal that is a recognized indicator of coal ash contamination, in monitoring wells near the plant and in three water supply wells about a half-mile away, according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials. "The levels of boron in these wells are a clear indication that coal ash constituents from Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundments have infiltrated the groundwater supply," Tom Reeder, an assistant secretary for DENR, said in a statement. "We are ordering Duke Energy to immediately take corrective actions to prevent further migration of coal ash contaminants."

Coal Ash Wednesday: Permits? We don't need no stinking permits

Duke Energy's coal ash disposal "experts" are already in trouble with regulators:

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited Green Meadow LLC and Moncure Holdings LLC with violating state regulations by starting grading and earth-moving work at the Brickhaven No. 2 mine without first obtaining a construction stormwater permit.

It also issued a notice of deficiency to Green Meadow for failing to meet the conditions of the mining permit at Brickhaven by neglecting to install erosion-control devices at the site before starting the grading work.

Tom Reeder might think this is no big deal, but the implications are sobering. If these two entities are either inept or uncaring when it comes to following required methods of construction, the integrity of the entire project is called into question. And if Duke Energy succeeds in convincing the NCUC to allow them to charge ratepayers for this work, we may be paying a hefty price to move coal ash from one leaking pond to another leaking pond.

Coal Ash Wednesday: With a side order of nuclear waste

There's a bigger mess in South Carolina than previously reported:

About 4 million tons of ash are in the 55-acre coal waste pond in Darlington County, according to data recently published on Duke Energy’s website. Last year, the power company reported only 660,000 tons in the ash basin near Lake Robinson, a popular recreation spot outside of Hartsville and about an hour’s drive east of Columbia.

Statistics showing more ash in the pond follow revelations in March that nuclear waste had been dumped in the ash pond and that poisonous arsenic has been found at levels substantially higher in groundwater than previously known by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Although Duke Energy is now responsible, the dirty deeds were done (dirt cheap) by Progress Energy. And they were so dirty the groundwater running under the coal ash/nuclear waste cocktail has Arsenic at levels 1,000 times greater than the safe limit. But staying in character, Duke Energy is not overly worried about it:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Starve the coal, feed the frackers

Duke Energy to replace coal plant with natural gas plant:

Duke Energy spokesman Dave Scanzoni says with projected population growth in North Carolina, the energy supplier was looking for a way to meet practical needs and local demand for cleaner energy.

"We thought this was a great opportunity to move forward with a much larger power plant that's much cleaner, twice the size in terms of electricity output," says Scanzoni. "But significantly cleaner and better for the environment than the coal that it replaces."

Brush strokes of the Duke Energy whitewash

Wait, I could have sworn I saw a crime being committed here:

Today's decision by Judge Malcolm Howard officially closes this chapter in our company's history. We've used the Dan River incident as an opportunity to set a new, industry-leading standard for the management of coal ash. We are implementing innovative and sustainable closure solutions for all of our ash basins, building on the important steps we've taken over the past year to strengthen our operations. Our highest priority is to operate our system as safely as possible for the customers and communities we serve.

Smooth as Jiffy peanut butter.

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