Help fix the NC coal ash crisis

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club

Dear friends,

As the 2014 session of the NC General Assembly heads into its final days, one major environmental bill remains in the balance —  one that will succeed, or fall short, of addressing the coal ash crisis in our state.

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As the House takes up S. 729, “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014″, there is critically important issue remains to be addressed in the coal ash bill. We need you take action today.

The February coal ash spill into the Dan River was the third largest in our nation’s history. The spill highlighted the dangerous practice of  storing 103 million tons of toxic coal ash in unlined pits next to our state’s waterways– and to end that practice requires the legislature’s attention, action and leadership.

The Senate has acted.  S 729 “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014″, was approved unanimously last week.  It goes a long way towards addressing the pollution entering our waterways and groundwater from Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds in the state.

But it has one serious shortcoming.

The Senate’s bill does not adequately ensure that all coal ash ponds, including those categorized as “low risk”, will permanently isolate coal ash from water to prevent further water pollution. Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals that are water soluble and at every coal ash site in NC these chemicals are leaking into groundwater supplies.  A proposed solution called “capping in place”, which leaves the coal ash in the ground with a landfill liner on top, can still lead to polluting ground and surface water.

The NC House will take up the coal ash bill at any time now.

Please contact your House Representative today.  Ask that clear criteria be established that would make sure that alternative closure methods selected for all 33 sites would only be allowed if Duke Energy could stop the water pollution from coal ash.

Click here to contact your representative today!

Thanks for standing up for clean water,

Zak Keith
Lead Organizer for the NC Sierra Club

P.S. – This bill could move quickly, please send your message today!  We need your state House Representative to know that without permanent separation of coal ash and ground water, covering coal ash pits is not a solution.

Take Action: Gather Comments to EPA on Carbon Pollution

Climate Change

President Obama promised that his administration would take action to confront the climate crisis — and now the EPA has finally proposed the first-ever safeguards against carbon pollution from our nation’s aging power plants.

This is a big deal, and the big polluters know it.

This is the beginning of what could be the biggest climate fight in history. Fossil fuel billionaires are mobilizing like never before. They’re already sending their lobbyists to Washington and spreading their fear-mongering talking points on Fox News.

Don’t let the fossil fuel billionaires get the last word. Flood the EPA with official comments saying that America is ready for strong climate action!

So what do I do with my signed comment forms? Bring them to our next monthly meeting or mail them to the NC Beyond Coal team at Sierra Club, 34 Wall Street Suite 709, Asheville, NC 28806. For questions or comments, contact contact Zak Keith or Emma Greenbaum.

Thanks for  being a Climate Action Champion!

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The Power of a Plan

Coming Clean: The blog of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune

June 24, 2014

The Power of a Plan

Michael Brune Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. View my blog.

In his 19th-century curmudgeon’s classic, The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined a plan as “the best method of accomplishing an accidental result.” When the EPA released its “Clean Power Plan” this month for reducing carbon pollution from power plants, the agency was clear about the results it expects by 2030: Cutting carbon pollution from the power sector to 30 percent below 2005 levels, while also reducing other air pollutants (which by themselves cause thousands of premature deaths) by 25 percent.

Maybe you’ve heard that this plan is momentous — a real game changer. Or maybe you’ve heard that, by itself, it’s not nearly tough enough to get us where we want to be by 2030. Actually, both of those things are true. This plan really is a big deal and it’s the payoff for years of hard work by dedicated activists. And, yes, it can and should be made even stronger — and we’re going to keep working to make that happen. Because the plan focuses on action at the state level, the Sierra Club is particularly well positioned to do that, too.

So, kudos to the EPA. But you know what? We’ve already seen some important results from this plan that — if not quite “accidental” — were by no means a sure thing, either.

Because President Obama is walking the walk on his 2009 Copenhagen pledge to reduce emissions, U.S. international credibility on climate action was boosted overnight. Most notably, we had the first indication ever from China that it was considering capping its own carbon emissions — an announcement that came the day after the EPA rolled out its plan. An important climate summit is happening in Paris next year, and this plan puts the U.S. in a better position to help secure an agreement.

Here at home, the plan has left the fossil-fuel lobby (and the politicians who take their marching orders from the Koch brothers) flailing for a credible response. Many cited a discredited report from the Chamber of Commerce that wasn’t even based on the EPA’s actual plan. Apart from the Tea Party choir, their sermons fell on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, the plan has drawn considerable support from non-fossil fuel industries and businesses, including some utilities. I think there are at least three good reasons for that. First, the EPA bent over backward to make its plan fair and flexible. Second, the reality of climate disruption has long since been accepted by businesses that can already see its effects on their bottom lines. Third, as the EPA’s own analysis shows, these standards not only are a cost-effective response but also will generate new economic opportunities and thousands of jobs.

Most exciting of all has been the response of those who will be most affected by this new plan: the American people. Overwhelmingly, that response has been positive. Polls (including one a week ago from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News) have found two out of three Americans supporting the new standards. Best of all, in at least one poll, a majority stuck to that view whether they were Democrats, Republicans, or independents.

But, getting back to long-term results, do I think that by 2030 we will achieve the results the EPA is aiming for with this plan? No. I think we’ll do far better. By 2030, clean, renewable energy will be playing a much bigger role in our economy than the EPA is guessing, and that transformation will multiply the already significant public health, economic, and climate benefits we’re expecting from these carbon pollution reductions.

Should that be called an accidental outcome? If so, then it’s a happy one.

You can submit an official comment on the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan here.

Today at the legislature, Wednesday June 25, 2014, Coal Ash bill passes Senate

Protect Enviro DemocracyDear Friends,

The Senate cast a final vote today in support of S 729, the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014.  Some good amendments passed, including two by Senate Rules Chair Tom Apodaca, who repeatedly credited Sierra Club for our input.  A particularly important amendment was offered by Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) to limit the impact of a concession gained in the legislature last session by Duke Energy that amended the statute regulating sources of water pollution by extending the compliance boundary for groundwater quality standards all the way out to a facility’s property line, abandoning the previous 500-foot limit. Automatically placing a compliance boundary at a property line removes any obligation for polluters to address groundwater contamination until after it has contaminated neighboring property and could allow a polluter to buy up neighboring properties to expand the area in which they could legally pollute. Sen. Stein’s amendment removes the assumption that a compliance boundary is at the property boundary; a step in the right direction.

But our work is by no means over yet. Next the bill goes to the House. Of particular concern is that the House make changes to better protect communities near coal ash sites designated “low risk” that are not appropriate for capping in place because of the proximity of coal ash to the water table.  Please contact your House representative and ask them to ensure that the coal ash bill protects groundwater by requiring that ash be separate from the water table.

We will be back in touch with more on what you can do as this legislation heads into the final stretch, but for now, please know that your voices have been heard.

Thank you, Cassie

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations
Sierra Club – NC Chapter
cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

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

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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.

Best,
Cassie

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations
Sierra Club – NC Chapter
cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

“Energizing Charlotte with Solar Power” – Program and Materials

We had a great turnout and response to our Solarize Charlotte program last night! Thanks again to Myers Park Baptist Church, the Cornwell Center, and the EarthKeepers for hosting the event. Big, big kudos and thanks to Mary Lou Buck for her great logistics and promotion, Rachel Shook for materials and signs, Bob Thomason for leading two tours of the church solar installation, and our presenters Solarize Champion Steve Rundle  and RED Group Jeff Redwine!!!

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Presentation on Solarize Charlotte Program

Solarize Charlotte MPBC June 24.Solarize Charlotte MPBC June 24

Video on the RED Group and the Solarize Charlotte sign up/installation process

Video on Solarize Charlotte related tax issues

NC Solar Center: Residential Customer Guide to Going Solar

Duke Solar Residential GuideDuke-Energy-Carolinas-Solar-Guide

Solarize Charlotte Resources

Solarize Charlotte
www.cleanerischeaper.com

Solarize Charlotte Facebook
www.facebook.com/SolarizeCharlotte

Renewable Energy Design Group, l3c (RED Group)     
www.redgroupnc.com

NREL’s PVWatts® Calculator 
www.pvwatts.nrel.gov

NC Sierra Club Solar
www.nc2.sierraclub.org/issue/solar

NC Sustainable Energy Association
www.energync.org

 

Please share this link and information with your friends and neighbors. Solarize Charlotte is hot, hot, hot!

18 months

 

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

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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).