Sierra Club NC Chapter Legislative Update 07-11-14

Protect Enviro DemocracyDear Friends,

This week the General Assembly did not move any environmental bills forward that we have been monitoring because House and Senate leaders were busy hashing out the budget in contentious private meetings. That said, the coal ash bill and other bills we are following could move quickly next week as the legislature races to end the short session.

Status of the Coal Ash Bill

The coal ash bill - S 729 “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014” – was on the Senate calendar several days in a row this week, but was finally moved to Monday’s calendar for a vote of concurrence. Senator Apodaca (R – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania), who is taking the lead on the coal ash bill in the Senate, has said that the Senate will vote not to concur on the bill because changes are needed. Specifically, he noted that he would like changes to:

1) the variance procedure added by the House that would allow the Secretary of DENR to grant an extension to deadlines in the bill;  and

2) the agency location and makeup of the Coal Ash Management Commission.

Procedurally, after the Senate votes to not concur – the coal ash bill will go to conference – which means that House and Senate leaders will appoint legislator conferees who will meet in private to iron out differences and come up with a final bill.

A major environmental concern remaining in regards to the coal ash bill is the lack of clear standards to ensure that all closure methods are protective of groundwater near coal ash sites. All 33 coal ash ponds at 14 coal plants in North Carolina are leaking toxic heavy metals into the groundwater.  Without clear guidelines, this bill could allow coal ash at 10 of these plant sites to stay in place, continuing to pollute our groundwater, lakes, and rivers.

Opportunity for Action:

Please contact Senator Apodaca, who will surely be on the coal ash bill conference committee, and ask him to add clear standards to the bill to ensure that any closure method allowed is protective of groundwater near coal ash sites.

What’s in the coal ash legislation that moves us forward? What is lacking?

Given the complexity of the coal ash bill – you may be interested in a broader picture of what the coal ash bill – S 729 – will do. Certain provisions in the House and Senate versions of the coal ash bill are not in contention and so will very likely be part of the final bill. These include the following provisions sought by the Sierra Club and its coalition partners:

  • Bring coal ash under the state’s current solid waste management laws:
    • The legislation makes wet coal ash subject to North Carolina’s fairly stringent construction, monitoring and siting standards for solid waste.
  • Address future management of wet ash:
    • The legislation requires wet coal ash disposal to be phased out entirely by the end of 2019. The coal ash bill will prohibit construction of new or the expansion of wet coal ash ponds beginning in August 2014. Then, by October 2014 no additional coal ash will be allowed to be disposed of in wet coal ash ponds at retired plants.
    • By the end of 2018 no stormwater may enter the coal ash ponds at retired plants and all active coal ash plants must convert to dry fly ash handling only. By the end of 2019, no stormwater may be discharged into coal ash ponds at active coal plants and active coal plants must convert to dry bottom ash handling only.
  • Set a timeline and fixed date to close out all 33 wet coal ash ponds
    • The legislation sets clear deadlines for closing out all 33 coal ash ponds. Four coal ash plant sites are identified for clean closure (excavation of ash and putting ash into lined storage. The remaining 10 sites would be categorized by the new Coal Ash Management Commission and put into either high, intermediate or low risk category based on a list of factors. High and intermediate categorization would require excavation of ash and putting ash into lined storage. Low risk sites would be allowed to be capped in place. [Note: Although groundwater monitoring and financial assurance would be required, the  closure standards for capping in place as currently in the bill do not adequately protect groundwater.]
  • Adequately regulate structural fill:
    • The legislation requires construction, siting and monitoring standards for large structural fill projects. Also, a one year moratorium on smaller structural fill projects is established while standards are studied by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
  • Close the highest risk sites first:
    • Clean closure, with removal of coal ash, from the four sites listed in the legislation: Dan River – Eden, Riverbend – Charlotte, Sutton – Wilmington and Asheville.  [Note that these sites are all in litigation, and that Duke Energy has already publicly committed to cleaning them up.]
  • Removal of a loophole in 2013 legislation that allows Duke Energy to extend the compliance boundary by acquiring additional property, even if that property is on the other side of a drinking water supply lake.
  • More funding for DENR to regulate coal ash: though not part of the coal ash legislation, both chambers have included funding for 20+ new positions at DENR to implement the requirements in the coal ash bill.

What remains to be addressed or improved in the pending coal ash legislation?

  • Criteria for prioritizing wet coal ash ponds for closure that is tied to groundwater contamination.
  • Setting minimum standards, based on scientific data, for closure. Closure standards should allow alternatives to moving the ash from unlined ponds near water only if those alternatives are demonstrably as effective in protecting water supplies as removing the source of contamination.
  • Standards for using coal ash for structural fill for structural fill projects under 80,000 tons/project of 8,000 tons/acre.
  • A provision that appears to be an attempt to undermine a recent NC Superior Court decision by Judge Paul Ridgeway, that is currently under appeal. The Ridgeway court order requires Duke Energy to immediately remove the source of contamination from coal ash ponds that are polluting groundwater.
  • A politically appointed new commission with broad discretion and little accountability to work with DENR to implement the bill. The new commission can use cost as a reason to reject a proposed closure plan.
  • Open pit mines are included as an option within the definition of structural fill. Large structural fill projects including those in open pit mines (over 8,000 tons/acre or 80,000 tons/project) would have to comply with the standards for large structural fill projects in the bill (standards including liners, groundwater monitoring, etc…). Smaller structural fill (including open pit mine) projects would be subject to a 1 year moratorium during which DENR will study the issue. We do not know what, if any, standards will be developed for smaller structural fill projects including those that are open pit mines.
  • Variance provisions (in the House bill) would allow the Secretary of DENR to extend deadlines for closure of coal ash ponds. The Senate does not support this House change and so this may come out or change during conference.

Thank you for your volunteer lobbying efforts on this important issue!

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

Sign Up Now for “Explore Our Wild NC Challenge”!

Sign up today for the “Explore Our Wild NC Challenge”! North Carolina has some great Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas. Why not plan to visit and experience all these great sites in the coming year? Check out the Sierra Club Our Wild NC website for information about all of these beautiful NC treasures.

Explore Our Wild NC Flyer July 2014Explore Our Wild North Carolina Flyer July 31

Sign up today for the “Explore Our Wild NC Challenge”! The sign up period ends July 31st.

 

Stop the Invasive Invasion at Evergreen Nature Preserve – July 12th

Stop the Invasive Invasion at Evergreen Nature Preserve – July 12th

Preserve Our Preserves Service Outing

Saturday, July 12, 2014

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Winterfield Elementary School

3100 Winterfield Pl, Charlotte, NC

For the last 2 years, The Central Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club has been engaged in invasive species removal  at Ribbon Walk Nature Preserve, and we have done such an outstanding job  the Parks and Recreation Department has asked us to do the same for Evergreen Nature Preserve. Invasive species, also called “introduced species”,” non-native” or “non-indigenous” are plants that adversely affect the habitats or bioregions they invade.  The invasive species dominate the region and crowd out native species which had previously provided habitat and food for birds and other wildlife.  There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from clearing a section of forest of invasive vines and seeing the natural open landscape restored.  We would love to have you join us at Evergreen to pitch in and restore this little slice of nature right in the heart of East Charlotte.

What to bring: Wear sturdy shoes for work and walking. Bring a water bottle and a snack if you would like to nibble while you work. Work gloves recommended. Tools are provided but you are welcome to bring your own loppers, trowels, knives, etc.

Liability Waiver: All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver. If you would like to read the liability waiver before you choose to participate in an outing, download a copy at NC Sierra Club Sign In Waiver

For questions or more information. contact Outings Chair David Underwood at 704-675-2390 davidmunderwood@mail.com

https://charlottesierraclub.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/evergreen-trail-map.jpg

 

And for you Kudzu Killers that want to learn more about identifying invasive plants, here’s a resource recommended by Mary Lou Buck!

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These North Carolina Coal Ash Numbers Are a Powerful Call to Action

AP story

Thanks to Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch for this excellent article! I’ve taken the liberty to add in some mimes developed by the NC Conservation Network team that help to illustrate the dangers behind these numbers. Please share…

Monday Coal Ash Numbers

156—number of days since a massive coal ash spill commenced at an abandoned Duke Energy power plant near Eden and contaminated the Dan River with toxic coal ash

Approximately 39,000—amount of coal ash (in tons) that spilled into the river (Duke Energy revised estimate – original estimate placed the figure between 50,000 and 82,000 tons)

24 million—amount of wastewater (in gallons) that also spilled into the river (Ibid. – original estimate was 27 million gallons)

13—number of coal ash dams in North Carolina that have been determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pose a “high” (seven) or “significant” (six) hazard if they were to fail (www.southeastcoalash.org) – Failure of intermediate hazard dams is likely to result is significant property and environmental damage; failure of high hazard dams is likely result in loss of life as well

33—number of unlined coal ash pits that Duke Energy has at 14 sites throughout North Carolina (Associated Press: “NC House approves Duke coal ash cleanup bill” – July 3, 2014)

100—percentage of these sites that are currently leaching contaminants into surrounding soil and groundwater (“Unlined and Dangerous: Duke Energy’s 32 (sic) Coal Ash Ponds in North Carolina Pose a Threat to Groundwater” – www.nationalgeographic.com – March 5, 2014)

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19 or more—number of potentially dangerous chemicals commonly found in coal ash – including the heavy metals arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc. (“Coal Ash: Hazardous to Human Health” – Physicians for Social Responsibility – www.psr.org)

As high as 1 in 50—chances you may get cancer as a result of coal ash pollution if you live near an unlined site and get your water from a well (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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15—number of years that competing House and Senate plans would give Duke Energy to “close” all coal ash sites – Duke will be allowed to simply cover those deemed to be a “low risk” with dirt and leave them in place (Senate Bill 729)

10—number of years that would be allowed to close any sites determined (if any) to be “intermediate risks” by a new commission to be created by the legislation (Ibid.)

5—number of years that both plans would give Duke to close four specifically identified “high-risk” sites (and any others so labeled by the commission) and transfer ash into lined landfills (Ibid.)

10 out of 14—number of Duke sites that could end up simply being “capped in place” under Senate Bill 729 as it currently stands after approval by the House last week (Ibid.)

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0—of the 33 pits and 14 sites, the number that environmental experts and advocates have determined are safe to simply leave in place (Southern Environmental Law Center, NC Chapter of the Sierra Club, N.C. Conservation Network, Environment North Carolina, Appalachian Voices, the N.C. League of Conservation Voters and the Catawba, Cape Fear and French Broad Riverkeepers to name a few)

2.6 million—number of people left unprotected who rely on drinking water intakes downstream from ten leaking Duke Energy coal ash sites not required to be cleaned up under the bill (“NC coal ash bill leaves 2.6M unprotected from risks” – Southern Environmental Law Center – June 25, 2014)

coalash6-19

2.7 billion—Duke’s net 2013 profits in dollars (up $900 million over 2012) (Charlotte Observer: “Duke Energy turns profit of nearly $3B” – February 18, 2014)

-3.3—effective percentage of the federal income tax rate paid by Duke from 2008-12 on net profits of more than $9 billion during that period (that’s negative 3.3% - the company actually received a net rebate of $299 million) (“Profiles in corporate tax avoidance: Duke Energy,” NC Policy Watch and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – April 10, 2013)

2-10 billion (or approximately 134 million to 667 million per year over 15 years)—estimated dollar cost of cleaning up Duke’s coal ash sites in North Carolina – depending upon the thoroughness of the clean-up (“Senate gives initial approval to coal ash plan” – WRAL.com, June 24, 2014)

0—amount of the cost of clean-up that both the Senate and House bills mandate be borne by Duke and its shareholders (Senate Bill 729 – www.ncleg.net)

Ratepayers Held by Duke to Pay

0—number of proposed amendments to require Duke to pay the cost of clean-up on which Senate and House members were allowed to vote (the Rules Committee chairmen in both chambers used parliamentary maneuvers to table the proposals before they could be brought to a vote)

10—number of registered lobbyists Duke Energy employs in North Carolina state government in 2014 (N.C. Secretary of State Lobbyist registration website)

1.6 million—amount in dollars of combined political contributions from Duke Energy to the campaign committees of Governor McCrory since 2008 and the outside political groups that helped his gubernatorial campaigns (“As Coal Ash Controversy Intensified, Duke Gave Another $437,000 to Help GOP Causes in 2013,” Democracy North Carolina, February 14, 2014)

28—number of years McCrory worked for Duke prior to his election in 2012

 

Coal Ash People 1

Coal Ash People 2

 

156number of days since a massive coal ash spill commenced at an abandoned Duke Energy power plant near Eden and contaminated the Dan River with toxic coal ash

Approximately 39,000—amount of coal ash (in tons) that spilled into the river (Duke Energy revised estimate – original estimate placed the figure between 50,000 and 82,000 tons)

24 million—amount of wastewater (in gallons) that also spilled into the river (Ibid. – original estimate was 27 million gallons)

13number of coal ash dams in North Carolina that have been determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pose a “high” (seven) or “significant” (six) hazard if they were to fail (www.southeastcoalash.org) – Failure of intermediate hazard dams is likely to result is significant property and environmental damage; failure of high hazard dams is likely result in loss of life as well

33—number of unlined coal ash pits that Duke Energy has at 14 sites throughout North Carolina (Associated Press: “NC House approves Duke coal ash cleanup bill” – July 3, 2014)

100percentage of these sites that are currently leaching contaminants into surrounding soil and groundwater (“Unlined and Dangerous: Duke Energy’s 32 (sic) Coal Ash Ponds in North Carolina Pose a Threat to Groundwater” – www.nationalgeographic.com – March 5, 2014)

19 or more—number of potentially dangerous chemicals commonly found in coal ash – including the heavy metals arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc. (“Coal Ash: Hazardous to Human Health” – Physicians for Social Responsibility – www.psr.org)

As high as 1 in 50chances you may get cancer as a result of coal ash pollution if you live near an unlined site and get your water from a well (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

15number of years that competing House and Senate plans would give Duke Energy to “close” all coal ash sites – Duke will be allowed to simply cover those deemed to be a “low risk” with dirt and leave them in place (Senate Bill 729)

10number of years that would be allowed to close any sites determined (if any) to be “intermediate risks” by a new commission to be created by the legislation (Ibid.)

5number of years that both plans would give Duke to close four specifically identified “high-risk” sites (and any others so labeled by the commission) and transfer ash into lined landfills (Ibid.)

10 out of 14number of Duke sites that could end up simply being “capped in place” under Senate Bill 729 as it currently stands after approval by the House last week (Ibid.)

0—of the 33 pits and 14 sites, the number that environmental experts and advocates have determined are safe to simply leave in place (Southern Environmental Law Center, NC Chapter of the Sierra Club, N.C. Conservation Network, Environment North Carolina, Appalachian Voices, the N.C. League of Conservation Voters and the Catawba, Cape Fear and French Broad Riverkeepers to name a few)

2.6 millionnumber of people left unprotected who rely on drinking water intakes downstream from ten leaking Duke Energy coal ash sites not required to be cleaned up under the bill (“NC coal ash bill leaves 2.6M unprotected from risks” – Southern Environmental Law Center – June 25, 2014)

2.7 billionDuke’s net 2013 profits in dollars (up $900 million over 2012) (Charlotte Observer: “Duke Energy turns profit of nearly $3B” – February 18, 2014)

-3.3—effective percentage of the federal income tax rate paid by Duke from 2008-12 on net profits of more than $9 billion during that period (that’s negative 3.3% - the company actually received a net rebate of $299 million) (“Profiles in corporate tax avoidance: Duke Energy,” NC Policy Watch and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – April 10, 2013)

2-10 billion (or approximately 134 million to 667 million per year over 15 years)estimated dollar cost of cleaning up Duke’s coal ash sites in North Carolina – depending upon the thoroughness of the clean-up (“Senate gives initial approval to coal ash plan” – WRAL.com, June 24, 2014)

0—amount of the cost of clean-up that both the Senate and House bills mandate be borne by Duke and its shareholders (Senate Bill 729 – www.ncleg.net)

0number of proposed amendments to require Duke to pay the cost of clean-up on which Senate and House members were allowed to vote (the Rules Committee chairmen in both chambers used parliamentary maneuvers to table the proposals before they could be brought to a vote)

10—number of registered lobbyists Duke Energy employs in North Carolina state government in 2014 (N.C. Secretary of State Lobbyist registration website)

1.6 million—amount in dollars of combined political contributions from Duke Energy to the campaign committees of Governor McCrory since 2008 and the outside political groups that helped his gubernatorial campaigns (“As Coal Ash Controversy Intensified, Duke Gave Another $437,000 to Help GOP Causes in 2013,” Democracy North Carolina, February 14, 2014)

28—number of years McCrory worked for Duke prior to his election in 2012

- See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/07/07/monday-coal-ash-numbers/#sthash.f1HRM9AZ.dpuf

New Uwharrie National Forest Recreation Guide Available Online

Uwharrie Map July 2014

A great resource for connecting with a beautiful area about an hour away from Charlotte. Check it out!

New Uwharrie National Forest Recreation Guide Available Online

TROY, N.C., June 30, 2014 – The U.S. Forest Service today unveiled the new recreation guide to the Uwharrie National Forest.

Click here to access the new guide.

The Uwharrie National Forest Recreation Guide serves as the primary informational source for recreation in the national forest. The new guide gives visitors the information they need to have an enjoyable visit in the 50,000-acre forest in North Carolina’s piedmont. The guide offers general information about the forest, as well as special features about the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail and camping. The publication provides details on where visitors can engage in activities such as horse riding, off-highway vehicle riding, mountain biking and more. The guide also includes safety tips and a colorful map.

Hard copies of the Uwharrie National Forest Recreation Guide will be available at the Uwharrie Ranger District office beginning in mid-to-late August. The office is located at 789 NC 24/27 East, Troy, NC 27371.

For more information about the Uwharrie National Forest and the other three national forests in North Carolina, visit www.fs.usda.gov/nfsnc.

Recycle it! Get your new recycling list and pick up calendar here!

Great resources!

Recyclables are collected every-other-week on the same day as garbage and yard waste collection.  To find your collection day and recycling week, visit the GeoPortal system, enter your address in the Search box, and then click on Services. If you already know your collection day and your recycling collection week (Orange or Green), you can refer to the Recycle It! Collection Calendar to stay up-to-date on your collection schedule.

NEW ITEM NOW ACCEPTED FOR RECYCLING COLLECTION … PIZZA BOXES. Residents may now recycle pizza boxes in their recycling cart. Pizza boxes are also now accepted at the County’s recycling centers.

For more information go to Charlotte Waste Services.

New List of Recyclable Items

Recycle List July 2014

 July 2014 to June 2015 Pick Up Schedule

Recycle Calendar 7_14 to 6_15

 

Sign the Petition: Amend the Constitution to get money out of politics

Sierra Club - Explore, enjoy and protect the planet

Support a constitutional amendment that would declare our independence from money in politics

Government by the People

Take Action

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
– July 4, 1776

With those words, Thomas Jefferson and the other drafters of the Declaration of Independence set an aspirational goal for our nation.

But the very foundations of the democracy they envisioned are under assault from big polluters and corporations who claim to be more equal than people, with special rights being granted to corporate “persons” to buy and sell our elections with their unlimited, undisclosed money.

Our Supreme Court’s disastrous decisions in Citizens United and McCutcheon are destructive to the ends of protecting our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. When big polluters can shout down normal citizens with unlimited SuperPAC money, our clean air, water, and climate suffer.

But we can fight back.

Send a message to your senators asking them to support a new constitutional amendment that would overturn these decisions and let the peoples’ voices be heard again.

The proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by environmental champion Senator Tom Udall,[1] would give Congress and the states the ability to regulate money in politics. With this, they can end the era of unlimited, undisclosed money from big polluters like the Koch brothers and Shaun McCutcheon.

While the amendment already has over 40 supporters in the Senate, it’s going to take grassroots pressure from people like you demanding they pass it.

Add your voice to thousands of others and declare our independence from money in politics.

Our government should respond to the voice of the people, not a few super-rich donors. When big polluters and their unlimited SuperPAC money speaks, they drown out the voices of the people who suffer because of dirty air, contaminated water, and a warming, unstable climate.

To make sure we can fulfill the aspirations our government was founded on, we must declare our independence from big polluter money. Tell your senators to support a constitutional amendment.

Thank you for everything you do for our environment and democracy,

Courtney Hight
Director, Democracy Program
Sierra Club

P.S. After you take action, can you help spread the word? Forward this email to your friends and family, or share the alert on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the buttons below:

 Share this petition on Facebook
 Share this petition on Twitter

References

[1] Full text of SJR19, 113th Congress

Sierra Club – NC Legislative Update 07-03-14

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

The House passed the coal ash bill today - S 729 “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014” – which was spurred by the Dan River coal ash spill. You may recall that In February 2014, 39,000 tons of coal ash and 24 million gallons of wastewater laden with toxic heavy metals were discharged into the Dan River from a broken stormwater pipe beneath an unlined Duke Energy coal ash pit.

Coal ash has been virtually unregulated in the state, so the task of creating a regulatory framework to address both the 33 coal ash ponds in the state, but also the massive amount of dry ash generated by the Marshall plant in Catawba County, has been daunting.  Rep. McGrady (R – Henderson), Rep. Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg) and Rep. Hager (R – Burke, Rutherford) carried the bill on the House side. Sen. Apodaca (R- Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania) and Sen. Berger (R – Guilford, Rockingham) did so on the Senate side.

S 729 represents some significant strides in dealing with the coal ash problem in North Carolina, but it hasn’t gone far enough to address the continuing dangers many communities face from coal ash pollution.

A problem section was added by the House that appears to undermine ongoing citizen litigation to address groundwater contamination from coal ash ponds at multiple locations in North Carolina. Basically, the House bill rolls back current law, recently clarified in state Superior court, that gives DENR both the authority and the responsibility to require Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of groundwater pollution coming from its unlined coal ash pits. We will continue to ask the House and Senate to remove this provision before final passage of the bill.

The House bill also failed to remedy the Senate bill’s lack of clear standards to ensure that closure methods are protective of groundwater near coal ash sites. All 14 coal ash sites in the North Carolina are leaking toxic heavy metals into the groundwater.  Without clear guidelines, this bill could allow coal ash at 10 of these sites to stay in place, continuing to pollute our groundwater, lakes, and rivers.

While the bill is not as strong as we’d hope would come out of the House, some positive elements of the coal ash legislation include:

  • bringing coal ash under solid waste management laws;
  • phasing out the antiquated and dangerous wet coal ash disposal method;
  • setting a timeline, with fixed dates to close out all 33 wet coal ash ponds;
  • requiring removal of ash from ponds to dry, lined storage away from the water at 4 sites (but not necessarily at the other 10 sites – that’s left to be determined by new Coal Ash Commission);
  • setting minimum standards for landfill disposal of coal ash;
  • setting standards, requiring permitting and buffers for large structural fill projects; and
  • requiring a public process, public hearings, and public comment for coal ash site closure plans.

While some helpful amendments were added by House members, overall the House failed to significantly improve the bill from the Senate version. House members on both sides of the aisle pushed for a stronger bill but most were pleased, at the end of the day, to pass a bill that moves the state forward in a number of significant ways on coal ash. The final vote on the bill in the House was 94 -16.

Opportunity for Action:

Please thank House members who put forth positive amendments (listed below) to improve the bill. Some good amendments passed, others failed, and many were tabled (a procedural move to avoid a vote). Much like in the fracking bill debate, some of the most high-profile amendments were tabled instead of allowing a vote.

Passed:

  • Rep.Murry (R-Wake) – removed a requirement making capping in place mandatory for low-risk sites, expanded and improved closure options and added a study to incentivize the reuse of coal ash.
  • Rep.G. Martin (D-Wake) – added dam safety and security measures for dams at coal ash ponds.

Tabled (to avoid putting members on the record with a vote):

  • Reps.Goodman (D-Hoke, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland),Wilkins (D-Granville, Person),G. Graham (D-Craven, Greene, Lenoir) andWray (D-Halifax, Northampton) tried to add the coal ash plants in their districts (Belews Creek, Weatherspoon, Roxboro, Buck and Lee) to the high priority site list for clean closure.
  • Rep.Baskerville (D-Granville, Vance, Warren) offered an amendment that would have prohibited Duke Energy from transferring the cost of coal ash cleanup to ratepayers.
  • Rep.L. Hall (D-Durham) offered an amendment that would have eliminated the variance procedure (added in the House version of the bill), which allows DENR to give leeway to Duke Energy on coal ash cleanup deadlines.

Failed:

  • Rep.Alexander (D-Mecklenburg) offered an amendment in committee that called for a baseline mortality and morbidity study in areas around coal ash ponds to better gage the effects of coal ash on public health.
  • Rep.Stone (R-Harnett, Lee) offered an amendment that would have added the Cape Fear plant, in his district, to the list of high priority sites, which will get fully cleaned up and all coal ash removed within 5 years. Stone’s amendment passed with a 57-54 vote but then leadership scrambled to flip votes, pulled a procedural move to reconsider the vote, and a second vote was taken of 54-58.
  • Rep.Luebke (D-Durham) offered an amendment to require standards for smaller structural fill projects.
  • Rep.Hamilton (D-Brunswick, New Hanover) offered a good amendment that would have eliminated the possibility of disposing coal ash in open pit mines.
  • Rep.Meyer (D-Durham, Orange) offered an amendment that would have eliminated cost as one of the factors that the new Coal Ash Commission may consider when reviewing coal ash pond closure plans, thereby prioritizing environmental and public health considerations.
  • Rep.Fisher (D-Buncombe) offered an amendment to add a seat on the new Coal Ash Commission to a person who lives near a coal ash plant.
  • Rep.Harrison (D-Guilford) offered an amendment that would have deleted the very concerning section on compliance boundaries that appears to undermine ongoing groundwater contamination lawsuits by environmental groups, including the Sierra Club. This amendment highlighted the most notable difference between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Looking Ahead:

Next the bill will go to the Senate for a vote of concurrence, likely next week. It is expected that the Senate will vote not to concur and will appoint conferees.  The House will also appoint conferees.  A final bill will be negotiated by members appointed as conferees. (note: conference committees are not open processes).

And later this year, in December, the EPA is scheduled to come out with a federal rule to address coal ash cleanup. The challenges that North Carolina has faced in developing comprehensive coal ash legislation shows that a strong EPA rule is needed more than ever to set national standards for coal ash disposal.

Thank you for all your efforts to communicate with legislators about this issue.

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

July 12 – Evergreen Nature Preserve Service Outing

Join us next weekend, Saturday July 12th, for a fun day of service, getting outdoors, and meeting new folks! Check out some photos from last month’s service outing (click on photo below) and I’m sure you’ll want to experience this beautiful Mecklenburg County resource.

Evergreen Nature Preserve

Preserve Our Preserves Service Outing

Saturday, July 12, 2014

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Winterfield Elementary School

3100 Winterfield Pl, Charlotte, NC

For the last 2 years, The Central Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club has been engaged in invasive species removal  at Ribbon Walk Nature Preserve, and we have done such an outstanding job  the Parks and Recreation Department has asked us to do the same for Evergreen Nature Preserve. Invasive species, also called “introduced species”,” non-native” or “non-indigenous” are plants that adversely affect the habitats or bioregions they invade.  The invasive species dominate the region and crowd out native species which had previously provided habitat and food for birds and other wildlife.  There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from clearing a section of forest of invasive vines and seeing the natural open landscape restored.  We would love to have you join us at Evergreen to pitch in and restore this little slice of nature right in the heart of East Charlotte.

What to bring: Wear sturdy shoes for work and walking. Bring a water bottle and a snack if you would like to nibble while you work. Work gloves recommended. Tools are provided but you are welcome to bring your own loppers, trowels, knives, etc.

Liability Waiver: All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver. If you would like to read the liability waiver before you choose to participate in an outing, download a copy at NC Sierra Club Sign In Waiver

For questions or more information. contact Outings Chair David Underwood at 704-675-2390 davidmunderwood@mail.com

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