Duke Energy

Victory for Dukeville: Coal ash to be removed

Of course it took a lawsuit to make it happen:

On Tuesday the Yadkin Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, reached a settlement with Duke Energy that requires the removal of all the coal ash from the unlined, leaking coal ash pits at Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station facility on the Yadkin River in Salisbury, North Carolina. This is good news for the people who live near the plant.

Duke Energy, in a dig to the human beings who live near the Buck plant and have been vigorously advocating for clean water, issued a statement claiming that the decision was “Just business” and that coal ash is “safe”. They made no mention of the human cost of their profits.

Related note: Camel City Dispatch has been struggling financially for a few years, and is contemplating pulling back from investigative reporting on government (and environmental) issues, while focusing on social & cultural (dining, entertainment) stories. They will still publish input from readers on those other important subjects, but I fear that may not be adequate. I realize this campaign season has been (and will be) very demanding on your pocketbooks, but a donation to this publication would not be wasted.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Stith's refusal to testify begs the question


What is he trying to hide?

Stith declined, on advice of attorney, to answer questions about coal ash pollution, the interaction between Duke Energy and state government, or about enforcement efforts against the utility. But he agreed to answer questions about his comments on Rudo.

High Arsenic levels reveal dangers of de-watering

Of course, Duke Energy spokesbot sez "No big deal":

Scott said the water tested was contaminated with arsenic at a level four times higher than the surface water safety standard. Nearby neighbors were disturbed by the findings. "We are very concerned, and this is another reason why Duke Energy needs to full clean up all that coal ash,” said Deborah Graham.

Duke Energy said the findings are very misleading. "Elevated arsenic levels are located immediately near the permitted release area. If you sample a short distance away in the river arsenic levels are well within the appropriate standard and would pose no risk to people on the river,” said Duke Energy Spokesperson Erin Culbert.

Did you sample that water a short distance away, or is that just speculation? The "if" leads me to believe you didn't, or you would have said something like, "Samples taken a short distance away..." While everybody reading this is probably aware Arsenic is some bad stuff, the health problems associated with long-term exposure are numerous:

More questions than answers on Duke Energy's "alternate" water supply

Not all water filtration systems are alike:

After decades of neglect by previous administrations, North Carolina is finally on track to permanently solve the long-ignored coal ash problem. Recent media reports have overlooked updates to the coal ash law that speak directly to the concerns we’ve heard from residents near Duke Energy facilities. Most importantly, we have started the process of ensuring that permanent drinking water is provided to residents around coal ash facilities.

This week the state environmental department sent letters to eligible well owners around Duke Energy’s Asheville facility, notifying them that they will receive a permanent alternate source of drinking water. Under the new law, residents may be provided with a connection to public water supply or a full house filtration system.

Skipping past Tom Reeder's blatant partisan posturing, the details of the "or" a full house filtration system have eluded my research skills. I'm a little(?) out of my depth here, so please consider this more of a cry for help than a learned dissertation. In looking at the various systems which might meet the needs of these folks, none of them appear to be ideal:

The ramifications of the latest coal ash legislation

With great power comes blatant irresponsibility:

Duke Energy is looking at its plans to close the 14 coal ash sites in light of a law passed by the state General Assembly and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, Brooks said. "Changes in the legislation have caused us to go back and evaluate what it means for all of our sites," he said.

The law only requires half the 14 sites in the state to be excavated. The company might be allowed to dry out the others and cap them with natural and synthetic coverings.

I thought you were using "strictly science" in your evaluation of coal ash sites? If that were the case, a relaxing of the laws should have no effect on your approach to remediation. Unless you're referring to "political science," which it appears takes precedence over whatever actual dangers are involved.

On the grid vs off the grid: A successful Solar revolution includes both

In the last few years, I've had numerous conversations with various people on renewable energy generation. And most of them, even those with much more technical savvy than I have, were missing some critical pieces of the puzzle in their understanding of the rapid growth of Solar in North Carolina and elsewhere. In example, here's a paraphrased conversation from a few months ago:

Coal Ash Wednesday: When science is declared "secret"

Duke Energy's damage control methods are out of control:

Duke Energy is asking a federal judge to make the sworn statements of a state environmental toxicologist off-limits to the public amid an ongoing lawsuit between environmentalists and the energy company over coal ash.

In a motion filed in a North Carolina U.S. District Court Tuesday, Duke Energy argued the deposition of Dr. Kenneth Rudo is "largely hearsay" and that releasing publicly would affect the firm's right to a fair and impartial trial. Company lawyers point to the heavy media attention surrounding coal ash cleanup and contamination, which has drawn the concern of nearby well owners who have received mixed safety advice from the state about their water.

First of all, the public's right to know about contaminated water resources trumps Duke Energy's desire to keep their mistakes hidden. And second, media coverage had absolutely nothing to do with "mixed safety advice" given to affected residents. The amount of influence Duke Energy wields over state government is what caused that mixed advice, another negative consequence of that damage control I mentioned above. And now you can add suborning justice to Duke's "portfolio."

In addition to pollution, Duke Energy now leaking propaganda

Disseminating Koch Brothers' subsidized misinformation:

Coal ash isn’t toxic, in fact it’s harmless, according a new report that Duke Energy has been disseminating this week. But a Carolina Public Press investigation has found serious doubts about the credibility of the report that relies heavily on the statements of one scientist who may have been misquoted or taken out of context.

Claiming that toxicity isn’t a valid a concern hasn’t been an angle the company pursued previously. Carolina Public Press contacted the scientist on whom the article relied for its claims. His response raised questions about the integrity of the reporting in the article from the organization Watchdog.org and why Duke Energy would promote an article with such dubious claims.

Okay, so: "Toxicity" determinations are directly tied to how a chemical or element interacts with a biological organism. You can determine the radioactivity of an element in the absence of such, but toxicity can only be formally mapped by actual damage, a much more difficult process. And since many of these potential toxins do not bioaccumulate, and are eventually expelled from the human body before they can be detected, the "smoking gun" is no longer there to find. This is what (I believe) the researcher in question was trying to convey. But what's more alarming than Duke Energy citing a Watchdog.org article in efforts to whitewash their dirty laundry, are the efforts by state government to bully media outlets into silencing the NRDC:

Duke Energy parrots squawk about saving people money

Van der Vaart is still confused about what his job really is:

This bill says Duke can seek permission to leave ash where it is, if it repairs dams and reduces other risks at its coal ash basins - something environmentalists oppose.

“The new coal ash law establishes a firm timetable for providing permanent water connections and repairing dams at coal ash ponds,” DEQ Secretary Donald van der Vaart said in a statement. “It also protects customers by allowing for less expensive methods of closing coal ash ponds that won’t be passed on in the form of higher electricity prices.”

The fact van der Vaart is even talking about economics should scare the bejesus out of people in our state, and it should also be a source of major concern for the General Assembly. But there's little doubt their decision to let go of the Coal Ash Commission was at least partly an effort to suck up to the campaign contribution behemoth known as Duke Energy. It's like watching a couple of academically-challenged football players trying to impress the Homecoming Queen, only less amusing. And the fact this development came just one month after a real scientific assessment exposed the depth and breadth of the problem is even less amusing:


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