John Skvarla can't do anything right

If people in the McCrory administration had as much integrity as they do chutzpah, we'd be home free. But sad to say, it ain't so. Case in point? John Skvarla's comments about his oh-so-close partnering relationships with environmental organizations who are working to clean up all the messes made by Duke Energy.

John Skvarla, the secretary of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said Wednesday that the Southern Environmental Law Center is a “partner” in DENR’s lawsuits aimed at protecting water against pollution documented at power plant sites owned by Duke Energy.

“We consider the citizens group to be on our side of the table,” Skvarla said during a news conference. Court transcripts paint a different picture.

Bonner Bridge is falling down

and it's the Southern Environmental Law Center's fault, says DAG McCrory and his posse.

[Cross-posted from BackwardNC]

Let's be clear that this bridge failure is a very serious matter, and it's a very serious issue for residents and visitors of NC's Outer Banks.

Yet the NC GOP response to the discovery that the bridge is unsafe for travel is curious. They blamed the SELC, who has a long-running lawsuit against the state regarding a planned replacement bridge. They blamed the SELC loudly, immediately, and in perfect harmony with one another. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata took the lead, showing his Fox News commentator skills:

NC GOP using Bonner Bridge issue to attack SELC

Another crisis, another opportunity to mislead the public:

In the midst of such a serious challenge, however, we find it disingenuous and irresponsible that you have chosen to aggressively, publicly, and inaccurately blame environmental organizations for this bridge closure. As a result of your urging, we have been at the receiving end of multiple threats based on misinformation you have provided. Rather than continue with these irresponsible public attacks, we encourage you to provide the leadership required to resolve the closure as quickly as possible and to focus on developing a long term solution to replace Bonner Bridge that ensures safe and dependable transportation to Hatteras Island.

Make no mistake, the Republicans are wetting their pants at the prospect of endangering the safety of the attorneys working for the Southern Environmental Law Center. The group has been a thorn in the side of irresponsible developers and polluting industries, and the GOP would love nothing better than to sweep this organization out of the way. And the bridge is only part of this story. A comment I posted on Facebook:

The power of the law

I love it when the Southern Environmental Law Center digs in, as they did recently in the magnificent Chesapeake Bay.

Along with an alliance of conservation groups, SELC helped defend the last, best hope for restoring the ailing Chesapeake Bay when a federal judge upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water quality restoration plan.

Thank goodness for the courts. And for organizations like the ACLU and SELC. Last, best hopes for sure.


DAQ grants Titan Cement new and dirtier air quality permit

Once again, the health of North Carolinians takes a back seat:

The release notes the permit also changes the facility’s limits for particulate emissions “in light of recent changes in methods that the EPA allows cement plant operators to use in calculating their emissions.”

“The plant would not actually be changing its emissions controls,” the release states, “but the EPA changed the averaging time for calculating emissions, which results in a higher limit for annual emissions. Under the permit, Titan’s emissions limits are increased by 22 tons/year for fine particles (PM 2.5) and by 10 tons/year for coarse particles (PM 10).”

What a crock. If no changes in emissions controls are being made, Titan should be emitting the same amount of particulate matter as vouched for in the previous permit. The frequency of testing or sampling averages should make no difference. Unless they were lying in their original permit application, that is, something that many have suspected all along.

Duke Energy back in court over coal ash

And Jesus said unto his flock, "Yeah, we were going to have some fish too, but there's something wrong with them."

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the notice, which is required under the Clean Water Act, on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Sierra Club. They say the lake is contaminated by selenium, an ash element that can cause reproductive problems in fish and wildlife. Contaminated groundwater, they claim, threatens the water supply of a low-income community.

The fact that SELC has to bring legal action to mitigate this is a shame, especially since Duke Energy has known about the negative impact of selenium for decades:

Legal action pending over Duke Energy's irresponsible handling of coal ash

When it comes to clean water, there's no such thing as a safe short cut:

In March, the N.C. Division of Water Quality (DWQ) filed a lawsuit over coal ash pollution seeping from ponds at a power plant in Asheville, N.C. owned by Duke Energy's Progress subsidiary. This week, DWQ amended that suit to address similar issues at Duke Energy's Riverbend plant on Mountain Island Lake, which provides drinking water for over 750,000 people in the Charlotte area.

While it might be a truism to say, "We shouldn't be worrying about coal waste because we shouldn't be burning coal anymore", the fact is, we are, and will continue to do so to some degree for many years to come. That being said, coal proponents love to talk about how cheap it is to burn coal. But you know what? Costs are accrued during the whole cycle, and that includes disposal of the toxic wastes. Skimping on that not only creates a false cost formula, it can change the chemical formula of our water, too:

SELC names ten most endangered places in the southeast

The most effective environmental organization in America this week reported on the ten most endangered places in the southeast, three of which are here in North Carolina. Given the rampage in Raleigh, however, it would have been equally valid if they had named our entire state as an endangered place.

SELC to Duke Energy: Clean up after yourself

Thank goodness the Southern Environmental Law Center is on the job.

Conservation groups today asked the N.C. Environmental Management Commission to require Progress Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Carolinas to clean up groundwater contaminated by old, unlined coal ash lagoons at 14 coal-fired power plants that have been leaking toxic substances for decades. Coal ash is the toxic waste that remains after coal is burned. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the complaint with the EMC on behalf of the Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Western North Carolina Alliance.

Stand up that mountain

Worth reading.

Jay Leutze has written a book about a five-year battle in which the little guys go up against a mining company and state officals, and win. Leutze was living in Northwestern North Carolina, way out in the country. A non-practicing lawyer, he was working on a novel, when one day he received a phone call from an outraged fourteen year old neighbor, Ashley Cook. She told him that a mining company was intent on tearing down Bluevelt Mountain, which towers above their little town, and it was in direct violation of the Mining Act of 1971. She wanted Leutze, with his legal training, to join their cause. Leutze ascertained that she was right, and joined the fight. Stand Up That Mountain chronicles the journey this band of Appalachian Folk, Jay Leutze, and eventually lawyers for the Southern Environmental Law Center, against the mining company and state officials.

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