Special Report: Duke Energy Coal Ash Controversy

Thanks to WCNC and Stuart Watson for these two great investigations into the Duke Energy Coal ash controversy. The latest installment aired this past Sunday. Be sure to watch and learn. Then share your outrage with your local NC elected officials.

Duke Coal Ash Report WCNC June 2014


Part 2 – FlashPOINT: A deeper look into the coal ash controversy

June 22, 2014. In this week’s special edition of FlashPOINT, NBC Charlotte I-Team Investigator, Stuart Watson, takes a deeper look into the coal ash controversy.

Part 1 – WCNC NBC Charlotte Coal Ash FlashPoint Special

Mar 2, 2014. NBC Charlotte’s Stuart Watson takes you deep into the Duke Energy Coal Ash spill in this 30-minute FlashPOINT special.

Today at the Legislature: Tues June 24th

Belews Lake Coal Ash Banner

Dear Friends,

The Senate voted unanimously today in support of S 729, the Senate’s coal ash bill. The measure will be back on the floor for a third and final vote by the Senate tomorrow and then the bill will go to the House for consideration next week.

A number of amendments were offered on the floor.  Two modest but good amendments passed (one to encourage reuse of coal ash and one to require longer monitoring of coal ash structural fill sites). A third positive amendment offered by Senator Josh Stein (D – Wake) was withdrawn for further reworking but may be back on the floor tomorrow. And Senator Mike Woodard (D – Durham, Caswell, Person) offered an amendment to require Duke to pay for the full cost of all coal ash cleanup at all sites; his amendment was blocked by a procedural move and thus failed.

The real focus of the debate today, though, was on amendments offered by a number of senators seeking to have the coal ash sites in or near their districts added to the bill as priorities for full and clean closure.  Currently, of the 14 sites, only Asheville, Dan River, Sutton (Wilmington) and Riverbend (Charlotte) are listed by name in the bill as priorities for full and clean closure (excavation of ash and removal to lined storage).

All of the proposed amendments to add sites to the high priority list failed along party lines, but may drive further changes in the bill by focusing public attention on the sites not identified as priorities.

Please thank these Senators for offering amendments to have the coal ash sites in or near their districts named in the legislation as priority sites for clean-up and for their powerful words on the Senate floor:

Sen. Valerie Foushee (D- Orange, Chatham): Cape Fear (Moncure)
Sen. Gene McLaurin (D-Anson, Richmond, Rowan): Buck
Sen. Gene Jackson (D-Mecklenburg): Marshall
Sen. Terry Van Dyne (D-Buncombe): Cliffside

The coal ash bill may see more amendments tomorrow in the Senate during third reading, then the House will have its chance to debate the bill in committees.  The bill is slated to go to House Environment and then House Public Utilities Committees before it reaches the House floor – the bill could be finalized next week.


Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations
Sierra Club – NC Chapter

Urge Speaker Tillis to Make Duke Energy Pay for Coal Ash Cleanup

NC WARN Coal Ash AdNC WARN Coal Ash Ad

Here’s an ad and announcement from NC WARN. Thanks to their work on this important issue!

NC WARN is using this full-page ad in print and online to generate support for NC House Speaker Thom Tillis to force Duke Energy shareholders to pay for cleanup of all the coal ash dumps.

A bill moving through the senate would allow Duke to charge electricity customers billions of dollars for its statewide coal ash fiasco – while requiring minimal cleanup.

As disgusting as the situation was just a few days ago, we’ve stolen back some momentum. The senate still hasn’t passed the bill. 

Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer have now joined the call that Duke must pay to clean up all sites.

TAKE ACTION: Duke Shareholders must Pay to Clean up All Coal Ash Dumps!

Contact Speaker Tillis with a short email or phone call: Thom.Tillis@ncleg.net, 919-733-3451 (or click here to use our email tool and sample language).


Put Solar On It today!


Rooftop solar energy has so many benefits and now it’s affordable and easy to have installed with Solarize Charlotte! If you live in Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union, or Cabarrus Counties you can get a free solar audit and find out if your home is ready for solar! Call the Solarize Charlotte preferred solar installer, the  Renewable Energy Design Group, l3c, at (336) 671-1068 today or sign up on line.

Spread the word. It’s time to Put Solar On It!



EPA Public Hearing on Carbon Pollution – July 29th, ATL

Sign up today to attend this important EPA hearing! For additional details or questions, contact Zak Keith,  Lead Organizer
North Carolina Sierra Club, at zachary.keith@sierraclub.org or (321) 356-6603.

EPA Carbon 40%

Public Hearings: Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule

EPA will hold public hearings for the Clean Power Plan proposed rule. The hearings will provide interested parties the opportunity to present data, views or arguments concerning the proposed action.

Registration is only required for individuals who wish to present oral testimony; registration is not required to attend and listen to testimony at the public hearings.

July 29, 2014
Atlanta, Georgia

9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. (EST)
Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
Main Tower Bridge Conference Area, Conference Room B
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Information and directions to EPA’s Atlanta office
Register for the hearing

If you would like to preregister to speak at the hearing, please complete the form or contact Ms. Pamela Garrett by email: garrett.pamela@epa.gov; or by telephone: (919) 541-7966. You may also register in person on the day of the hearing, and will be accommodated as time allows.


Paddle to Clean Up Buck Coal Ash – June 25th

A new report from the Associated Press finds that carcinogenic chemicals may be leaking from unlined coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station near Salisbury, North Carolina. Incredibly, as of today, the coal ash proposals from both Governor McCrory and the state Senate (Senate Bill 729)1 would allow Duke Energy to leave toxic coal ash in place at 10 of the 14 coal ash sites across North Carolina, including at Buck Steam Station. This is unacceptable!

Tell your state legislators to protect North Carolina communities by moving all of these toxic coal ash ponds away from our waterways!

North Carolina should clean up and move ALL of our leaking, toxic coal ash pits. Polluted coal ash isn’t just a future problem, it’s affecting real North Carolina families right now.

Join in this action to call for coal ash dump clean up across North Carolina!

Yadkin River Paddle to Buck Coal Plant June 25th at 8:30 AM
Join members from a coalition of environmental groups in a fun kayak and canoe event on the Yadkin River on June 25th at 8:30 AM.

This will be a short casual paddle of about 2 hours from the York Hill Access at the headwaters of High Rock Lake to the vicinity of Duke Energy’s Buck Electric Power Plant and coal ash ponds. There, those who choose to can link up their boats for a photo opportunity holding signs and banners promoting clean water and demanding action on coal ash ponds. Then we will explore nearby areas of the river and lake before returning to the launch area.Bring boats, Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices, water and snacks. All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver.

This Buck Power Plant event is cosponsored by the Sierra Club, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, and other environmental organizations in the Piedmont Triad Beyond Coal coalition (see Facebook).

Contact Henry Fansler at hbjfansler@windstream.net or Gus Preschle at exploor@triad.rr.com for more information.

As a separate but coincident opportunity, boaters can sign on with the Dean Naujoks, Riverkeeper and paddle the 12 mile trip to the Tamarac Marina (see Yadkinriverkeeper.org for details).

Buck Paddle

Buck Paddle Flyer

Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor: “We drink from the Catawba; we deserve clean water”


A shout out and thanks to Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor for this excellent Op-ed in the Charlotte Observer!

We drink from the Catawba; we deserve clean water

Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014

From Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor:

Gov. Pat McCrory recently proposed legislation that would require Duke Energy to move its polluting coal ash to safer storage away from our waterways at some of its power plants, including the Riverbend plant near Charlotte, but not from all of them. This will protect some communities, but Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill, Pineville, Charlotte, Gastonia, Belmont, Mt. Holly and all of Mecklenburg and Lincoln Counties will still be at risk. Each of these communities draws drinking water from the Catawba River below the Marshall Steam Plant on Lake Norman.

Just upstream of Mecklenburg County, Duke Energy stores nearly a billion gallons of wet coal ash in an 80-acre unlined pit at the Marshall Steam Plant, directly on the banks of the Catawba River. North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has stated under oath in court filings that one or more of the dikes or berms for the lagoons at the Marshall facility are discharging through numerous unpermitted flows, leaks, and channels into the Catawba River.

Sampling of groundwater near the Marshall plant has found boron at levels 54 percent above state standards, iron at 237 percent above state standards, and manganese at 284 percent above state standards.

These coal ash dumps are always at risk of catastrophic failure, triggered by a flood, a tropical storm, or simply age and neglect. On the Dan River, an old storm-water pipe collapsed on a normal day. Duke Energy dumps its coal ash in outdated, unlined pits next to our rivers and drinking water, held back only by dikes made of soil that leak, and has had multiple dike breaks and failures at its coal ash lagoons across North Carolina in addition to the colossal spill on the Dan River this year. The EPA rates the dams at the Marshall plant as high hazard, meaning that a dam failure is likely to cause a loss of human life and devastating impacts to Lake Norman and the Catawba River.

Mecklenburg, Lincoln and Gaston County communities are all at risk of a Dan River catastrophe, which would have devastating consequences.

There is a simple solution. Duke can move this coal ash away from the Catawba River to safe, dry storage in a lined landfill, or recycle it to make concrete or other products. That is what the other two utilities in the Carolinas are doing, just across the border in South Carolina, without raising customer rates. Duke should take at least this step to protect our rivers and our drinking water.

Yet, Duke Energy has only indicated a willingness to remove coal ash from four of its 14 plants, including its Riverbend plant. The utility has refused to commit to moving its coal ash away from the Catawba River-Marshall site. Neither our state environmental agency nor McCrory has required Duke to do it. Our citizens deserve better. We must not allow Duke and the Governor to pick winners and losers. We all deserve clean water.

Ask Duke Energy and Gov. McCrory: Why won’t you do what is right for the entire Catawba River? And ask your legislator to protect your river and your drinking water if Duke Energy and the governor won’t do so. Tell them that our communities matter.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/06/11/4970255/we-drink-from-the-catawba-we-deserve.html

Sierra Club NC Chapter – Special Legislative Update – Some Good Environmental News

Protect Enviro DemocracyDear Friends,

A mid-week legislative update is in order due to some good news on the House version of the budget. You may have heard that the Senate budget had some bad environmental provisions. We got most of our requests for changes to environmental aspects of the Senate budget (S 744) – in the revised House version, released today, thanks to Rep. Tom Murry from Cary, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural & Economic Resources.  Representative Murry’s committee removed Senate proposals to put taxpayer funds towards fracking, and at the same time, increased funding for coal ash cleanup and stormwater pollution controls for our most polluted lakes (amongst other changes). The House and the Senate will need to agree on a final budget in the end, so we don’t know that all the improvements will be kept, but its great to see the House going in a positive direction.

Action Recommended:

Please thank Rep. Tom Murry (R – Wake) for his leadership on improving the budget on environmental issues by calling or sending an email, especially if he is your representative. Additionally, please ask your Senator to keep the House budget changes to environmental sections.


The Senate budget contained a provision that would have had taxpayers subsidizing the oil and gas industry by putting $100,000 towards marketing North Carolina’s small shale gas resource to an industry that has shown no interest so far. And $50,000 for an analysis of the chemical composition of our gas; and $973,000 for a no-bid contract – exempt from public contracting laws for test wells and core sample analysis in four parts of the state: the Dan, Davie, Cumberland-Marlboro, and southern Deep basins (click link to see map). Overall this idea seems to be an unnecessary gift to the oil and gas industry that taxpayers should not be shouldering. It was removed in the House version of the budget.

Water Quality:

A special provision in the House budget would add $1,000,000 to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. If passed, the money would be used for the treatment of pollution before it enters the rivers and streams that are drinking water sources. Jordan Lake and Falls Lake are subject to Nutrient Management Strategies, so these funds may help the ongoing pollution problems in these two local water bodies.

Coal Ash:

The House increased funds for DENR salaries overall and increased funds for coal ash positions and operating funds by $500,000. Further, the House budget untied coal ash funding for DENR from the passage of S 729, the Governor’s Coal Ash Action Plan, so that even if the Senate’s bill were not to pass, DENR would still get funding to address North Carolina’s coal ash problem.

There were other improvements to certain provisions affecting agriculture, wells and coastal jetties. Overall, the House version of the budget is much improved from the Senate’s in terms of environmental issues.

Thank you,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter


Sierra Club NC Chapter Legislative Update – June 6

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

This week at the legislature the House took up the Senate budget (S 744) and began marathon meetings to craft their own budgetary proposals. The Senate took a bit of a break and then returned to Raleigh on Wednesday where they were greeted by nearly 80 coal ash lobbyists. Thank you to all the volunteer lobbyists who came to Raleigh to meet with legislators on coal ash lobby day! Lawmakers seemed pleased to have constituents visit and generally expressed support for a strong coal ash bill.

Opportunity for Action

Whether or not you were able to join us for coal ash lobby day – please follow up with your legislators; right now is the key time to make calls and send emails asking for a strong coal ash bill.

Senate Turns to Coal Ash Legislation

The Governor’s coal ash bill (S 729), which was filed by the Senate and the House as a placeholder, was discussed by a skeptical Senate committee on Thursday morning. Senators Tucker, Hartsell, Ford, Bryant, Walters, Rabin, McLaurin and Allran all asked tough questions of DENR Secretary Skvarla regarding a wide range of coal ash issues such as the potential for reuse in concrete, the cleanup timeline, DENR enforcement, pond closure prioritization and public notice. Senator Rabin (R – Harnett, Johnston, Lee) pressed for faster reporting of spills over the “no later than 24 hours” that would be required by the Governor’s bill. And Senator Tucker (R – Union) kicked off a committee discussion about the potential for reuse of ash in concrete; it turns out that North Carolina is actually a net importer of coal ash for that use.  There may be potential for reuse of at least some part of North Carolina’s coal ash.

The Governor’s coal ash plan is a first step in the right direction but is inadequate. The plan does not have deadlines for coal ash clean up and identifies only four of fourteen coal plants as sites where coal ash would be removed to lined storage. S 729 does not direct how coal ash at ten of Duke Energy’s plants should be dealt with, so it could be left in place, and continue to pollute groundwater if the bill, as currently written, were to become law. Some key areas that the Sierra Club asked the Senate to address in a revised bill are: the future of coal ash handling; dates certain for removal of ash and closures; and prioritizing and providing effective standards for the closure of all sites. A good coal ash bill should have a timetable, with fixed dates to close out all wet coal ash ponds and to remove ash to dry, lined storage away from our waterways.

As you may recall, Democrats proposed a strong coal ash clean up bill -H 1226 “Coal Ash Management Act”. But the Senate version of the bill was referred to the Rules Committee, usually where bills go to die. The House version was directed the the Committee on Public Utilities and Energy. Leadership determines what bills get calendared for committees – so the Democrats’ bill may not come to a vote.

Fracking and the Senate Budget

Yesterday, Governor McCrory signed S 786, which lifts the moratorium on the issuance of fracking permits in North Carolina. DENR will be able to issue permits as early as this time next year (after rules for the oil and gas industry go into effect). This summer there will be an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules at several public hearings – we will keep you updated on the dates and locations.

The Senate’s proposed budget would put $100,000 in taxpayer funds towards marketing North Carolina for fracking and $973,000 towards shale gas test wells and core sample analysis in the Dan, Davie, Cumberland-Marlboro, and southern Deep basins. Overall this seems like an unnecessary subsidy to the oil and gas industry. If the state is going to invest public funds in an energy sector – why not in solar and wind – given that North Carolina is known to have excellent resources in both?

Thanks again to all the Sierrans who came to the successful coal ash lobby day!

Best regards,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter