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.

Dismantled: SELC's comprehensive report on the GOP's horrific environmental record

Read it, bookmark it, and share it widely:

By 2013, the legislature had cut the budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (now the Department of Environmental Quality) by 40 percent, greatly diminishing its capacity to protect the state’s air, water, and land. In 2013, the new state administration even changed the mission of the agency to clarify that it is a “customer service” agency where science contains a “diversity of perspectives,” and employees were admonished not to be “obstacles of resistance” in carrying out their charge to protect the environment. With each passing week and each new policy, it becomes clearer that the customers the Department of Environmental Quality serves are the polluters, not the citizens of North Carolina.

The report gives a brief summary of all the advances in environmental stewardship that took place in the two decades leading up to the Republican takeover of state government, but what it cannot detail is the massive loss of institutional knowledge that 40% cut produced. Read the whole thing, there's a lot of information that can help a layperson understand all the challenges we face, and what needs to be done to mitigate those problems.

Coal Ash Wednesday: The contamination continues

The only thing that's ceased is the outrage and determination from lawmakers to fix the problem:

The more that the scientists look, the more problems they find – for example, arsenic in a drinking water reservoir, contaminated well water, fish kills, polluted groundwater. All are unnecessary.

Every day, 3 million gallons of polluted coal ash water flow into North Carolina rivers from Duke Energy’s coal ash lagoons. Every day, groundwater is being contaminated. Every day, there is the risk of another catastrophe. It is long past time for DENR and Duke Energy to act to clean up North Carolina’s coal ash mess and protect all 14 communities and rivers across North Carolina.

And the only thing lawmakers seem to be concerned about is losing ground in their efforts to suppress women's access to health care and LGBT rights. Once again, the GOP is allowing its misogyny and bigotry to draw their focus away from real dangers, and the citizens of NC are paying the price for that lack of concern. Meanwhile, the Duke Energy happy talk express is chugging right along:

Coal Ash Wednesday: SELC doing the jobs of ineffective regulators

Begging the question: What are we paying those regulators for?

Following lawsuits by SELC, two of the three utilities in the Carolinas -- South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper -- are removing coal ash from unlined pits near rivers to dry, lined storage facilities away from rivers and lakes. SELC is currently representing dozens of groups in 10 state and federal lawsuits to address 14 leaking coal ash sites maintained by Duke Energy throughout North Carolina.

For decades, the EPA has developed and issued guidelines to individual states on how to comply with Federal statutes on clean air and water, because the enforcement "arm" of this system relies on state environmental agencies. But due to mostly Republican oversight of these state operations, that part of the job is not getting done. The bottom line is, SELC isn't engaging in "activism" or some other hot-button term, they are stepping into an empty space where a state government regulator should be standing, and yet Republican leaders in the General Assembly would have us blame them for "meddling." Business as usual for the GOP, break something and then blame those who try to fix it.

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