Duke Energy

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.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Muddying the causality water

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The "naturally-occurring" theory gets a boost:

Western North Carolina is in the middle of what geologists call the Blue Ridge ultramafic rock belt, which extends from the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia down into Georgia. Within this belt are high concentrations of serpentine and amphibolite rocks, which contain manganese and iron, the elements needed to oxidize chromium-3 — which is non-toxic — into hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen. While hexavalent chromium is most often produced by anthropogenic pollution, especially through the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas, it is closely associated with rocks found in the Blue Ridge, according to the US Geological Survey.

Coal Ash Wednesday: 93% of tested wells contaminated

And Duke Energy still refuses to take responsibility:

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Tuesday that 152 wells tested near Duke's dumps failed to meet state groundwater standards. That represents more than 93 percent of the 163 wells for which tests have been completed so far.

So far, Duke is providing bottled water to "about half a dozen" of the residents, but the company indicated that number is expected to rise. The company maintains the groundwater contamination is all naturally occurring.

What is that? 4% of the people with contaminated wells are getting some bottles of water? That number had better rise, and with the quickness, or Duke Energy's public relations nightmare will get a lot worse.

The battle of the Dukes: Better science vs ambiguous results

When solving the mystery of coal ash contamination is not a priority:

Prominent Duke University water-quality researcher Avner Vengosh and several colleagues developed a “forensic tracer” test last year that promises to identify with great accuracy whether coal ash is the culprit in individual cases of water pollution. “The isotopic signature of boron coming from coal ash is always different from naturally occurring boron or boron from other sources,” added Laura Ruhl, Vengosh’s partner in the research and a professor of earth sciences at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Drew Elliot, DENR’s communications director, said agency officials would welcome more and better testing tools, but they are under “aggressive deadlines” set by North Carolina’s new coal ash law. They can’t meet those deadlines if they detour to add a new series of tests, he said. The state’s preferred methodology for deciding whether coal ash is causing water pollution is to look for obvious, chemical clues in the well samples, he said.

And that "preferred methodology" is ineffective. Ignoring the isotopic signature of the contaminant is like ignoring fingerprints at a crime scene. It only makes sense if you're trying to protect the perpetrator.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's cozy relationship with DENR

Be careful what questions you ask:

Holleman praises what has happened in South Carolina and says citizen lawsuits brought by the SELC have moved things along there. And he says, there’s another reason why it has not happened here: “The very, very close relationship between the regulator and Duke Energy.”

“That’s insane,” says Tom Reeder an Assistant Secretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.”(What would) a career state employee have to gain by entering into some sort of special relationship with Duke? It’s very hurtful when you hear that, actually.”

The answer to your question is contained in the question itself. Thanks to McCrory's liberal use of the "fire at will" policy of exempting DENR supervisors from employment protections, keeping a "career" at DENR viable is now more about politics than professionalism:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Don't drink the water

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There goes the neighborhood:

Most of the private wells tested near Duke Energy’s North Carolina coal ash ponds show contaminants above state groundwater standards, state regulators said Tuesday.

Of 117 test results mailed to power plant neighbors in recent days, 87 exceeded groundwater standards, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said.

And every one of those neighbors needs to be compensated and/or have potable water made available to them by Duke Energy, at no cost to the homeowners, the state, or other Duke Energy ratepayers. You break it, you buy it. But as long as DENR continues to run interference for Duke Energy, people are going to suffer:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke plays "no power for military bases" card

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"You can't convict us of a crime, because the world will end if you do.":

If Duke Energy pleads guilty to federal criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, will the lights go out at Ft. Bragg, N.C.?. The nation’s largest electric utility raised that possibility in federal court Tuesday, suggesting that a federal law could prevent a guilty Duke Energy from supplying power to military bases and federal facilities in North Carolina.

The issue arose in court Tuesday when the judge referred to earlier motions filed by Duke regarding possible threat to electric power at federal facilities in the state.

They always have an angle, don't they? If Duke Energy put a fraction of the energy they expend to avoid responsibility into operating cleanly and safely, they wouldn't need to be in the courtroom to make this argument.

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