Duke Energy

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.

Public hearings on Lee and Chatham coal ash dumps

The first is tonight and the second Thursday evening:

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will hold two public hearings this week on a plan to allow Duke Energy to move up to 20 million tons of coal ash to two landfills in Lee and Chatham counties. The projects require multiple environmental permits. The hearings will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with sign-up for speakers beginning at 5 p.m.

▪ Monday, Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, 1801 Nash St., Sanford.

▪ Thursday, Chatham County Historic Courthouse, 9 Hillsboro St., Pittsboro.

It appears there is some conflict within the environmental community over this plan:

Permitting illegal pollution: Duke Energy's hypocrisy on coal ash

If it's too expensive to fix, then subvert the system:

The permits, which are renewed every five years, would allow Duke Energy to identify 23 previously illegal coal ash leaks at three area power plants — Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake, Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman and Allen Steam Station on Lake Wylie — and include them in discharge permits instead of stopping the seeps.

As is usual in cases where Duke Energy finds itself on the wrong side of safety and health laws and regulations, reality is what you say it is. What was once illegal is now legal, thanks to a few squiggles jotted on a piece of paper by someone who isn't a lawmaker. Isn't that handy?

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke shareholders finally getting angry

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Taking their own company to court:

The plaintiff in the case, a Duke investor in Philadelphia named Judy Mesirov and her law firm Rigrodsky & Long of New York, asked for the complaint to be sealed because it includes confidential material the utility provided to them during discussions before the suit was filed, says Duke spokesman Dave Scanzoni.

In public documents from the suit, Mesirov accuses current and former board members and some Duke executives of wasting corporate assets and exposing the company to billions of dollars in liability over environmental problems they created. It says they “consciously and routinely endangered the lives and health of the public, wildlife and vegetation by exposing them to carcinogens and by polluting North Carolina’s and Virginia’s environment.”

Yes, they did. But I do find myself wondering: If Duke's management team had acted proactively, spending the tens of millions it would have taken to build proper (lined) coal ash containment ponds and other approaches to stop leaking from occurring, would the shareholders have punished them for cutting into dividends? Not defending Duke Energy per se, but major stockholders in publicly-traded corporations are notorious for only being concerned with quarterly profits and not the long-term health of the company. I'm sure there are some exceptions, but not nearly as many as our (overall) economy needs.

Speaking about discrimination

On Saturday, March 28, 2015, I wrote a post When North Carolina economics and Indiana discrimination collide concerning the pervasiveness of discriminatory practices sweeping yet again, our country. I singled out three people that I felt, have a duty to speak up in light of recent Indiana legislation. By now, many are aware what the law (in the name of religious freedom) purportedly says. On its face, the law also says disgusting, discriminatory bigotry.

When North Carolina economics and Indiana discrimination collide

The antics of heavy handed discrimination regarding others is by now, getting very tiresome. Whether on a state or national level, Republicans frequently interject their self-righteousness and indignation among those they were elected to serve. While this isn’t a new phenomenon, the amount of laws (by percentage) as a part of all laws either sponsored, voted on or passed; and which specifically denounces the interests and views of citizens today, is remarkable.

Coal Ash Wednesday: A fait accompli for Lee County

County Manager breaks the bad news:

If residents want to see who voted to place coal ash in Lee County, go to the North Carolina Legislature’s webpage and pull Senate Bill 729 from the 2014 session. Make sure you see who sponsored the bill. They are the ones who developed the plans to place coal ash in clay mine pits in North Carolina. Because Lee County is the clay/brick capital of North Carolina, the bill gave Duke the right to place coal ash in the county without approval of the local government.

A vote to move forward on the recent financial agreement offered by Duke is not a vote to put the coal ash in Lee County – that already was done by the legislature, just like fracking. A vote in favor of the agreement is to accept money from Duke that will hopefully help the community overcome the stigma of having a coal ash storage facility. Voting against the agreement will mean we won't get the money and coal ash will, in all likelihood, come anyway.

My initial reaction to this op-ed was to say, "It ain't over 'til it's over." Republicans in the General Assembly might consider themselves all-powerful, but the courts so far have shown that feeling to be mistaken. Several of their more outrageous moves have been delayed, blocked, or simply ruled unconstitutional. That being said, I'm not the one trying to manage a county on what has to be a shoestring budget. And he's right about the legislation he referenced:

Duke's Outsourced Coal Ash Lies Hit Lee County

Duke Outsourcing Its Coal Ash Lies

Duke Energy’s coal ash problem has hit another snag this week. According to The Rant, Charah, Inc. (the company Duke has contracted to handle its coal ash) lied on its permit requests with the state twice.

First, Charah claimed the clay mine they would be using for the coal ash dump would be returned “to its original topography” and that the dumping would “take place outside of a 50-foot buffer zone from any wetlands.”

However, as Sanford’s Environmental Affairs Board found out last night, these are both not true. Charah will pile coal ash 50 to 60 feet higher than the original topography, and Charah has since “applied for four permits to mitigate damage to wetlands” that are supposed to be protected by the 50-foot buffer.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke fined $25 million for Sutton leaks

Apparently DENR does still have some teeth:

The agency fined the utility $25.1 million for several years of leaking coal ash that polluted groundwater around the Sutton plant. The penalty also includes the state’s investigative costs. The state also hinted yesterday that more fines for groundwater violations at other Duke power plants could be coming.

The penalty dwarfed the previous record $5.6 million fine that the state issued in 1986 against Texasgulf Chemicals, now PCS Phosphate, for air emission violations at its phosphate mine and fertilizer plant on the Pamlico River in Beaufort County.

It's probably a sign I've been doing this political blogging thing too long, but the first thought that percolated from my brain was, "There's more than one way to make up your budget shortfalls." Where will that $25 million go? In a civil suit settlement, the judge often points a finger in the direction the money should be spent, but this is different. I'll see what I can find out.

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