Call or send an email to your NC elected officials and let them know what you think of the bill. Do it today! (See contact information below)
Joint Press Statement on N.C. Coal Ash Bill S729 – S729 Fails to Protect People from Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pollution
S729 Fails to Protect People from Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pollution
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— The coal ash bill issued by a conference committee of the N.C. General Assembly today fails to require cleanup of 10 coal ash sites across North Carolina by allowing Duke Energy to leave its polluting coal ash in unlined, leaking pits at 10 of 14 sites. The bill leaves at risk people in nearby and downstream communities throughout North Carolina and other states. The bill seeks to weaken existing law and protect Duke Energy from taking responsibility for its coal ash waste.
Allowing coal ash to be left in unlined, leaking pits across North Carolina with documented groundwater contamination at each site is not a cleanup plan nor does it protect the people of North Carolina. Many sites across the country where coal ash has been covered up or “capped” in place continue to experience high levels of toxic pollution. Covering up coal ash and calling sites “closed” does not stop or clean up pollution.
All communities deserve to have water supplies protected from the toxic threat of coal ash by moving coal ash to dry, lined storage away from our waterways.
All of Duke Energy’s coal ash disposal sites pollute groundwater, and existing law in North Carolina requires “immediate action to eliminate the source of contamination” at these sites. Politicians inserted language into Senate Bill 729 that guts existing law and undermines citizens groups’ ongoing efforts to ensure real cleanup of these polluting sites under existing law.
As Duke Energy sought previously through its proposed sweetheart settlement deal with the state, the bill gives Duke Energy amnesty for its leaking coal ash dams. Rather than requiring Duke to fix its leaking dams, S 729 would let the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) shield Duke by authorizing uncontrolled discharges of contaminated wastewater into our rivers and lakes. Granting this responsibility to an agency with a history of putting the interests of Duke Energy over the public is a prescription for failure.
The legislature should require Duke Energy to clean up its leaking coal ash dams, and not allow DENR to paper over Duke Energy’s pollution.
Any bill written to weaken North Carolina’s protections against coal ash pollution is alarming given the recent disaster at Duke Energy’s Dan River facility and frequent promises from our elected representatives that this bill would protect citizens of North Carolina.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the following citizens groups in various court cases to clean up Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution across North Carolina: Appalachian Voices, Cape Fear Riverwatch, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Dan River Basin Association, Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, Roanoke River Basin Association, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Waterkeeper Alliance, Winyah Rivers Foundation, and Yadkin Riverkeeper.
SACE Response – NC Lawmakers Come Up Short on Coal Ash
Unfortunately, the bill they passed actually undermines current groundwater protection laws, fails to clean up 10 of North Carolina’s dangerous and polluting coal ash impoundments and lets Duke off the hook for the harm their dumpsites are causing communities and waterways statewide. As a News & Observer recent Editorial aptly stated, Senate Bill 729 “proposes to solve the coal ash problem by declaring it not a problem. Or, at least not an urgent problem.”
At the very least, lawmakers could have codified a judge’s ruling earlier this year (a result of citizen suits enforcing the Clean Water Act) that clarified the requirement in current law that Duke immediately remove all sources of groundwater pollution (i.e., every single one of their coal ash dumpsites, all of which have been polluting groundwater for years). Instead, the new bill will leave much of the state’s coal ash right where it is, either dewatered or capped in place next to waterways where it can pollute in perpetuity–a plan that lawmakers are touting as comprehensive clean up.
Good editorial – NC Coal ash bill offers a weak remedy
But this something is not much better than nothing. Essentially, Senate Bill 729 proposes to solve the coal ash problem by declaring it not a problem. Or, at least not an urgent problem. Only four of Duke Energy’s 14 coal ash sites are designated for cleanup by 2019. What to do with the rest would depend on risk assessments by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and approval by a commission whose members would be appointed by the legislature and the governor.
Addressing the problem with a commission delays action. It also assures that the “solution” will be the product of lobbying and the legislature’s prevailing desire to side with business interests over the interests, and in this case the health, of state residents. We need look no further than the state’s Mining and Safety Commission’s pro-fracking approach to safety issues to know how this even more politicized coal ash commission would work.
The bill makes it obvious just how broken, to borrow the governor’s term, environmental regulation is in North Carolina. It requires that the Department of Environment and Natural resources to have its coal ash decisions approved by a commission. The House’s lead negotiator on the measure, Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said the state’s environmental regulators can’t regulate coal ash directly because, “There’s ongoing criminal investigations right now.” A federal grand jury is investigating DENR’s actions related to coal ash.
Good response – Environmentalists slam new coal ash bill
Environmantalists noted that Duke already had said it planned to get rid of the ash at the four plants.
“The bill doesn’t explicitly require Duke to do anything it hasn’t already voluntarily committed to do or will soon be required by the federal government,” said D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“A far cry from the historic bill lawmakers have touted, this plan chooses just four communities out of 14 across the state to receive cleanup,” said Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “The others, our lawmakers have decided, will have to wait for a commission of political appointees to decide their fate.”
“This bill is a big gift to a multi-billion-dollar utility giant,” said Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper for the Asheville-based environmental group Western North Carolina Alliance. “Instead of strengthening and furthering protections from coal ash, this bill attempts to weaken cleanup requirements already in place.”
Another good response – Method used for closing coal ash ponds linked to problems
The legislation that cleared the General Assembly on Wednesday allows Duke Energy to close some of its coal ash pits using a method – known as cap-in-place – that has been linked with groundwater contamination at the company’s Belews Creek Steam Station in Stokes County, according to documents obtained by the Journal.
Conservation groups prefer that Duke excavate the coal ash at all 14 sites and put it in lined landfills. While Duke says that cap-in-place would be safe, conservationists say that pollutants in the coal ash left in capped ponds would eventually seep into groundwater and contaminate it – as has been documented by the Pine Hall landfill.
“This (legislation) leaves ongoing contamination in place – and that is a major policy shift for North Carolina,” said D.J. Gerken, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The legislation would also allow Duke to circumvent a Wake County Superior Court judge’s ruling that state law requires the immediate removal of sources of contamination, conservationists say.
Call or send an email to your NC elected officials and let them know what you think of the bill. Do it today!
Mecklenburg County Legislative Delegation
Kelly M. Alexander, Jr: Kelly.Alexander@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5778
William Brawley: Bill.Brawley@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5800
Rob Bryan: Rob.Bryan@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5607
Becky Carney: Becky.Carney@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5827
Tricia Ann Cotham: Tricia.Cotham@ncleg.net; (919) 715-0706
Carla D. Cunningham: Carla.Cunningham@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5807
Beverly M. Earle: Beverly.Earle@ncleg.net; (919) 715-2530
Charles Jeter: Charles.Jeter@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5654
Rodney W. Moore: Rodney.Moore@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5606
Ruth Samuelson: Ruth.Samuelson@ncleg.net; (919) 715-3009
Jacqueline Michelle Shaffer: Jacqueline.Shaffer@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5886
Thom Tillis: Thom.Tillis@ncleg.net; (919) 733-3451
Jeff Jackson, Jeff.Jackson@ncleg.net; (704) 942-0118
Joel D. M. Ford: Joel.Ford@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5955
Malcolm Graham: Malcolm.Graham@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5650
Bob Rucho: Bob.Rucho@ncleg.net; (919) 733-5655
Jeff Tarte: Jeff.Tarte@ncleg.net; (919) 715-3050
Mecklenburg County Representation (Website and district number)
Kelly M. Alexander, Jr. (District 107)
William Brawley (District 103)
Rob Bryan (District 88)
Becky Carney (District 102)
Tricia Ann Cotham (District 100)
Carla D. Cunningham (District 106)
Beverly M. Earle (District 101)
Charles Jeter (District 92)
Rodney W. Moore (District 99)
Ruth Samuelson (District 104)
Jacqueline Michelle Schaffer (District 105)
Thom Tillis (District 98)
Daniel G. Clodfelter (District 37) (RESIGNED 04/08/2014)
Joel D. M. Ford (District 38)
Malcolm Graham (District 40)
Jeff Jackson (District 37) (APPOINTED 05/06/2014)
Bob Rucho (District 39)
Jeff Tarte (District 41)