* NC Green News for Aug 18 – Duke, Fracking, Biomass, the Climate Crisis and More

Here are some recent reports impacting our North Carolina environment. Feel free to share the ones you like with friends and neighbors!

This Land is Your Land

Charlotte Moral Monday
Moral Monday in Charlotte – Aug 19, 5:00 PM – Be There!
and Facebook:  Moral Monday Charlotte #moralmonday

Duke and Coal Ash
NC judge: Green groups can join suit against Duke Energy
Southern Environmental Law Center submits info on Duke Energy (WSOC video)

Duke and Nukes
Duke Energy spending on Lee nuclear plant nears $350M
Duke plans for 2 new S.C. nuclear reactors delayed
Duke Energy cancels Levy nuclear plant, cites state law changes
Duke Power “legally” steals $3 billion from Florida customers

Duke Buying Goodwill
Duke Energy Foundation writes $6.7M check to N.C. community colleges

Duke Betrays Public Trust
Charges dismissed against regulator indicted over Duke Energy ties

Duke/Progress Merger Bad News for NC
Appeals Court Weighs Merger of Duke Energy, Progress Energy
— News Release from NC WARN

There is a right way to do this
Catawba/Wateree Coal Ash Removal in South Carolina Ahead of Schedule

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the really, really ugly
NC Sierra Club 2013 Legislative Report

New York Times on the fall of NC – article references the 2011 article State for Sale and Art Pope
North Carolinians fear the end of a middle way

This will make you sick
NC agency move would allow 9 times more arsenic in our air

One step forward, two steps back
NC legislature slows fracking rush, renews push for offshore drilling

New Duke Research Ties Drinking Well Contamination to Fracking

Our Forests Aren’t Fuel – Update from the Dogwood Alliance
Wood Pellet Manufacturing is Risky Business and it Just Got Even Riskier
Court Strikes Down EPA’s Free Pass for Biomass

NC Physician on Climate Crisis
Global warming bad for planet, but it may kill us first

Climate Crisis Messaging – Grist David Roberts’ sobering thoughts
Conservative hostility to science predates climate science
The futility of “just the facts” climate science
Can Climate Science Be Rendered Conservative-Friendly?

* Trash and Biomass Incineration Worse for Climate than Coal

New data illustrates why power plants like the ReVenture Park incinerator is still a really bad idea for the health and safety of our community and our planet.

Trash and biomass incineration are far worse for the climate than coal, per unit of energy produced.

Trash incineration releases 2.5 times as much CO2 as coal, and 55% more if you pretend that the biogenic* part doesn’t count.  Biomass is nearly 50% worse than coal.  This is based on the latest U.S. EPA eGRID 2012 data (2009 data, released in May 2012).

CO2 US Power Plants

















Please note that, especially with the practice of fracking, natural gas is actually worse than coal for global warming, if you count all of the methane leakage from extraction to pipelines to end uses.  This chart is just for smokestack emissions, but for the whole picture on global warming pollution from gas vs. coal, see: http://www.eeb.cornell.edu/howarth/Marcellus.html

* The “biogenic doesn’t count” (a.k.a. “carbon neutrality”) argument relies on the assumption that the extra pulse of carbon pollution is instantly sucked up by trees grown specifically to offset the emissions from the trees burned. In reality, it takes centuries to become “zero” and about 40 years for biomass to become only as bad as coal. That figure, from a study done for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, caused that state to adopt the strictest limits on biomass incineration in the nation, making it basically ineligible for renewable energy credits. Studies on this can be found in the links on the right sidebar on our biomass page: http://www.energyjustice.net/biomass/

Read more about Biomass Incineration on the Energy Justice Network website.

Read the new report at Dirtier Than Coal: Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad news for the planet

Dirtier Than Coal

The report, Dirtier Than Coal: Why Government plans to subsidise burning trees are bad news for the planet, criticizes proposals by the UK government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to continue and expand taxpayer subsidies for the biomass power industry. The NGOs accuse the government of ignoring principles set out in the 2012 UK Bioenergy Strategy which called for a biomass energy policy that would “deliver genuine carbon reductions that help meet UK carbon emissions objectives to 2050 and beyond.” According to critics, even the Bioenergy Strategy’s policy conclusions support an expansion of biomass energy and contradict the analysis and cautions about carbon impacts.

Friends of the Earth (FOE), Greenpeace, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) say that the government has “chosen to exclude a number of key sources of emissions” from biomass energy in their carbon calculations, with the findings “based on fundamentally flawed data relating to greenhouse gas implications.” Failure to fix the error and rework biomass policies will come at “considerable cost to the public, and have a damaging impact our climate.”

Dirtier Than Coal alleges that government support for burning trees for electricity “threatens” commitments in the Climate Change Act of 2008 to cut back on greenhouse gases “in terms of actual emissions to the atmosphere in the critical period to 2050, within which we must avert dangerous climate change.” The report authors demand an “immediate review and revision” of the emissions calculations to include those from “carbon debt and indirect substitution,” and to develop a “comprehensive accounting system.” They call for an end to subsidies for burning biomass from saw logs and roundwood because of the compelling evidence for a high carbon debt from burning wood from whole trees.

* Alice’s Restaurant Illustrated: A Thanksgiving Counterculture Classic

In the tradition of Alice’s Restaurant this is a post about “Alice’s Restaurant Illustrated: A Thanksgiving Counterculture Classic” that starts out in one direction, takes a side trip, and ends back home. I hope that Arlo Guthrie, Woody Guthrie’s son, will like this.

Have you seen the PBS special about the life of Wood Guthrie? By the way, the link doesn’t take you to the PBS special, it takes you to the Wikipedia article about the life of Woody. It’s just as well because you should go there first. The link to the PBS special is here Link to Wood Guthrie PBS special.  Well the link actually takes you to a nice piece about the special, not the actual show. You can find it if you want to see it. I saw it this week and it is excellent!

The reason I mention Woody Guthrie, Arlo’s dad, is because I also saw Ken Burn’s new special The Dust Bowl this week. Unlike the other links, this link will take you to a page where you can actually watch the special. It’s a must see story! Here’s the description:

THE DUST BOWL chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the “Great Plow-Up,” followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with twenty-six survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.

The part that caught my attention was the phrase “the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history“. I paused. Could we be on the brink of an even worse “man-made ecological disaster”? In our rush to find fossil fuels we are injecting toxins into our earth – fracking. We’re knowingly injecting toxic, cancer causing chemicals into the ground and risking polluting whole aquifers of our drinking water forever.

Which some how brings me back to Arlo and  Alice’s Restaurant. If you didn’t know it’s now a Thanksgiving classic. Recorded in 1967, the 18+ minute counterculture song recounts Arlo Guthrie’s real encounter with the law, starting on Thanksgiving Day 1965. And it builds steadily into a satirical protest against the Vietnam War draft.

I hope that you enjoy it and, by the way, Happy Thanksgiving!

* A physician’s letter to environmental journalists about the proposed ReVenture incinerator

While the author of this letter, William Blackley, MD, writes about ReVenture’s failed  plan to burn garbage (“A physician’s letter to environmental journalists” by Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman, Feb 22, 2011), many of his points deal with the burning of biomass for energy in general. It also a reminder about what has taken place over these past several years.

It’s an excellent reminder.

It’s an excellent warning…

A physician’s letter to environmental journalists

Source: Creative Loafing, Rhiannon Fionn-Bowman, Feb 22, 2011

This letter (below) speaks for itself. Though it was sent to several media organizations’ environmental journalists, I’ve yet to see or hear any of them share the letter or comment on it besides allowing the original post in the comments to remain online. (Do correct me if I’m wrong.)

The author is responding to an article about the proposed ReVenture Park’s proposed gasification-incinerator hybrid, and he offers a perspective not included in most of the media coverage about the project or the county’s role in it.

Read more about ReVenture (though some of the project’s details have already “evolved”) in the February issue of Charlotte magazine (written by me), or online here: “ReVenture Under Review.”

Now, in the interest of the First Amendment, here is Dr. William Blackey’s verbatim response to a recent Charlotte Observer article:


Dear Bruce (and other environmental reporters).  We’ve talked before and you’ll remember me as a physician from Elkin, North Carolina.  I read the recent article (link pasted) in the Charlotte Observer about ReVenture.  Thanks you for reading my response below.  I sent it in as a response on line.Sincerely, William Blackley, MD

Waste-to-energy beats landfills, experts say


In reading this article it’s apparent that Mr. McKittrick is being ‘sold’ on the ‘concept’ that the only safe way to deal with waste is burn it.  He seems to be relying on advice from ‘vendors’ and others with financial interests in ReVenture.

Mr. McKittrick says, “pollution-control ‘vendors’ guarantee emissions will be within safe limits.”   I notice he didn’t say that ‘ReVenture’ guarantees that the emissions would be within safe limits.  Is this his way of saying that if there are problems the ‘vendors’ will be responsible or is it his way of saying that he doesn’t know if it is safe or not but the ‘vendors’ do?

One of the ‘expert’ proponents who testified at the recent conference sponsored by those with interest in ReVenture is Nickolas Themelis.  He has established his own Waste to Energy Foundation.  His bio says he’s the “inventor of about twenty patents related to high temperature processing.”  (His) “Current research work is on integrated waste management and the design of processes for material and energy recovery from used products.”  Sounds like his business is about waste burning ‘concepts.’

ReVenture is a ‘concept’ rather than a tested operation.  Is there any plant like ReVenture in operation that has a track record we can examine?  Would any of us buy a ‘concept’ car and put our kids in it for a test drive at highway speeds?

Has the county, city or ReVenture conducted a health risk due diligence study?  Has ReVenture completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) looking at risks and alternatives?

Since there is such a rush to implement some of these ‘concepts’ apparently the federal government allows companies to be exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that requires an EIS for ‘certain action “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

Just because ReVenture may be exempt from NEPA doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to skip environmental impact or medical due diligence studies.

The North Carolina Medical Institute of Medicine Task Force on Prevention (Co-chaired by the NC State Health Director, Dean of UNC Medical School and CEO of the North Carolina Medical Society) produced a study entitled, “Prevention for the Health of North Carolina: Preventive Action Plan, October 2009, revised July 2010 ”

It pointed out that Mecklenburg County had “exceeded the annual EPA standards” for particulate matter in the last several years.  Their research estimated that there are 3,000 “Premature death (adults)” in North Carolina citizens annually from particulate matter in our air.

They also pointed out in the same study that, “In 2009, Charlotte-Gastonia-Salisbury metropolitan area ranked the 8th most ozone-polluted city in the nation.”  According to the study, ‘short-term exposure to elevated ozone levels can contribute to premature death.’

Are the citizens of Charlotte really going to permit another plant that adds more ozone and particulate matter to their air?

This entire Institute of Medicine document may be read on line at the website below.  Read Chapter 7 detailing Environmental Risks.


Mr. McKittrick seems to be a businessman hoping to help the community and create jobs.  He is not an environmental or health specialist.

He’s taking the word of ‘vendors’ and others who hope to sell Charlotte a multi-million dollar business deal that they have a financial interest in.  To sweeten the bargain the ReVenture could receive a 154 million dollar federal stimulus grant to reimburse up to one third of the project’s cost . . . at taxpayer expense.

That’s a good deal for ReVenture.  But it’s not a good deal for the primary stakeholders, the citizens, who pay the taxes and who would be exposed to the toxic emissions.  Lead in gasoline and paint was a good deal for those businesses but a bad deal for humans.

The volumes of emissions that would be released from this ‘concept’ plant have not been determined.  However, the toxic health effects of emissions like those that would come from this plant have thoroughly studied.

‘Expert’ testimony or opinion about these emissions has no credibility when it comes from people who have financial interest in the outcome, whether the ‘experts’ are professors or not.

Every other incinerator in the world emits toxic emissions.   Do citizens want to gamble that ReVenture is the single safe variant . . . based on opinions from vendors who will make money from the sale?

The proponents acknowledge that the plant will “release air emissions, including carbon monoxide, fine particles, acidic gases and smog-forming compounds.”

ReVenture proponents seem to shy away from hot button topics like dioxins, carbon dioxide, global warming, weather change, nanoparticles, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxides, volatile organic compounds and ozone.

They know that Charlotte citizens may be worried about ozone and conveniently don’t mention that ReVenture would emit gasses that turn into ozone when exposed to sunlight.

The proponents confuse the public with distracting sound bites such as when they haul out the old ‘trash barrel burning’ comparison as if that has anything at all to do with ReVenture.  ‘Trash barrel burning’ is not an option anyone is considering.

They say ReVenture will ‘release’ air emissions but they carefully avoid saying that ReVenture will ‘increase’ air emissions and worsen air quality.  They know it will worsen air quality but don’t want to acknowledge that fact.   Does anyone want to add more toxic air emissions to Charlotte air . . . besides people making money off of doing it?  Isn’t reducing air pollution a goal in Charlotte?

They may claim that burning waste would replace coal but then there is no coal plant dumping out toxic emissions near downtown Charlotte.  This spurious argument completely begs the issue since that are truly clean energies such as solar, wind, water and hydrogen that many hope will replace fossil and other biomass fuels.

Proponents claim, “Modern pollution controls and combustion techniques catch most of those emissions.”  When the company touts MACT or BACT, (maximum or best available control technology) this only means that ReVenture is required to use the best 12% of control technology available in a plant like ReVenture.  It says nothing about absolute effectiveness of control and ‘most’ is a relative term.

Besides, since ReVenture is the only plant like it so who will set the 12% standard?  Will state regulators come up with some ‘concept’ guidelines or will they base regulations on the modeling ‘concept’ presented by ReVenture.

If ReVenture violates the emission standards, what happens?  They would be fined over and over without being shut down.   In an interview with an attorney for the State Health Department, he said that stopping a plant like this for health reasons was almost impossible.  He said that once they fire up they would be almost untouchable.

As far as I can determine there is no plan for short or long term monitoring of human health effects in the vicinity of ReVenture.  To allow a nature trail through the complex is quite the paradox.

The proponents make a big deal claiming that “Emissions will be continuously monitored . . . so problems can be quickly detected.”  They neglect to mention that only a ‘few’ of the multiple air emissions would be continuously monitored.

Proponents claim that their process is very different from other incinerators.  I agree.  Many of the dangerous emissions from this plant will be gases and fine particles that are colorless and odorless.  Citizens won’t even know they are breathing them or swallowing them when they ingest locally contaminated food, fish or grazing animals.

The proponents claim that the government regulations and standards will protect the citizens.  You only have to look at NC Biomedical Waste (NCBMW) in Matthews to understand the inaccuracy of that statement.    NCBMW was emitting 1,000 % more dioxins and 300 % more mercury than the EPA deemed safe for humans.  NCBMW is not shut down.  They were recently given two years by the state and Mecklenburg County Air Pollution Control agency (they asked for four) to fix the problems after a huge public outcry.   In the mean time citizens are exposed daily

As a point of reference, an air permit only sets a minimum standard that in effect allows for a ‘maximum amount of pollution’ that an incinerator is allowed to emit.  These are called ‘de minimus’ standards.

Just as the government regulators allowed lead in paint and gasoline for years, allowed Agent Orange, formaldehyde, asbestosis and even DDT,  they could permit ReVenture as well.  Does anyone think there will be no influence peddling when it comes to regulating, fining and shutting the incinerator down for violations once they are a going concern?

Be aware that 150,000 US Veterans were awarded compensation for cancer and other diseases from exposure to dioxins in Agent Orange in Vietnam . . . thirty years after exposure.   Children in Vietnam are still born with birth defects from dioxins in the soil from Agent Orange after forty years.

No short-term study is going to show the long-term impact of agents like particulate matter, dioxins, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and others.

One ‘expert’ implied that if Charlotte doesn’t burn the waste it would go to the landfill.  Do all these ‘experts’ think that Charlotte citizens are incapable of doing what other cities have done in moving toward ‘zero waste?’

San Francisco recently hit 75% recycling and is moving higher.  Some cities have a goal of total recycling and maximum clean air.  Recycling has been shown to create more jobs than incinerators.   Has the city brought in ‘zero waste’ experts to give their ‘expert’ opinion on dealing with waste?

Charlotte has had bad air quality for years because of ‘not acting’ to disallow pollution.  Just when it looks like the air quality may improve, is Charlotte going to allow an incinerator that is guaranteed to worsen air quality no matter if it meets some ‘de minimus’ standard or not?

Observer Response to “Waste-to-energy beats landfills, experts say”.   (Feb 13) http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/02/13/2058394/waste-to-energy-beats-landfills.html

By William Blackey, M.D. Elkin, N.C.  –  Board Certified in Family Medicine, Fellow American Academy of Family Practice

* September 19th Webinar: The School Flag Program – Protecting Students’ Health through Air Quality Awareness

This is a great program that speaks to the special needs of Charlotte Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union, and Cabarrus County students!

Clean Air Carolina has done some great work in launching and promoting the program – see Clear the Air for Kids.

Help spread the word about the program! Sign up for the free webinar!

School Flag Program Announcement

This webinar is one in a series of webinars developed for the U.S. Department of Educations’ Green Strides Webinar Series.  

The School Flag Program — Protecting Students’ Health Through Air Quality Awareness
Date:  Wednesday September 19th
Time: 2:00-3:00 pm EDT

Register for this free webinar:  https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/356754848

Ellen Wildermann with the U.S. EPA will describe how the School Flag Program can help schools improve the health and wellness of students and staff.

Children’s health protection is an essential component of green, healthy schools.  EPA’s School Flag Program helps the school community be aware of outdoor air quality conditions so teachers, coaches, and students can take protective measures to reduce exposure to air pollution.  

States, districts and schools may attend this webinar to:

·        Discover how the flag program raises awareness of the air we breathe

·        Understand how air pollution can affect the health of children, especially those with asthma

·        Find out recommendations for modifying outdoor activities when air quality has reached unhealthy levels

Learn the simple steps to get the School Flag Program started at your school to ensure healthy learning environments. It’s low cost and easy!


* ReVenture Incinerator Plans Are Back – Keep Mecklenburg Incinerator Free

Just when you thought that it might be safe to breathe in western Mecklenburg County in the future, ReVenture now says that they want to resume plans to build an incinerator complex – TWO INCINERATORS!

John Downey, Senior Staff Writer for the Charlotte Business Journal, recently reported that ReVenture was ready to build its biomass incinerator in Mecklenburg County.

“Plans are back on for a biomass plant at the ReVenture Park, with developer Tom McKittrick building a 1.4-megawatt plant using technology developed by a Locust company. The plant is slated start producing power as soon as mid-January.”

“ReVenture already has signed a contract to sell municipal power supplier ElectriCities 60,000 poultry credits in 2013. That will be almost the entire output of the 1.4-megawatt plant.”

ReVenture had promised that their air permit for the site would be one of the most thoroughly reviewed permits and that there would be public hearings on the permit.

“With that contract in hand and with the plant’s air-quality permit already issued by Mecklenburg County, McKittrick says he hopes to start construction in December.”

For those that may have forgotten about the history of ReVenture, see the Sierra ClubReVenture Key Findings – Part II, Detail Comments on Each of the Key Findings Criteria of the Mecklenburg Solid Waste Management Advisory Board”.

“McKittrick’s ReVenture project has been largely out of the news since long negotiations to sell power and credits from a proposed biomass plant to Duke ended unsuccessfully in the spring. But in an interview Wednesday, he said work has continued on several projects proposed for the 667-acre clean-energy park, to be built on a former Superfund site along the Catawba River.”

Who would want to buy a home next to TWO INCINERATORS?

“ReVenture also has purchased 578 acres adjacent to the energy park to build an eco-friendly residential development.”

ReVenture had promised that they would make details of the project public. We’ve seen this over and over as ReVenture has changed their FUEL SOURCE and their TECHNOLOGY again and againReVenture Abandons “State-of-the-Art Incinerator Technology”.

“He declines to identify the N.C. company that developed the technology he intends to use in the 1.4-megawatt biomass plant.

ReVenture has changed their fuel source many times. Burning chicken waste is dirtier than burning coalReport: Air Pollution and Toxic Hazards Associated with Poultry Litter Incineration

In a separate filing of its own with the commission, Tucker says its project could process chicken waste into such a gas.

Read the full article at:


* Free Family Move Night – The Lorax, Sept 21

Family Move Night – Free!

Friday, September 21st

Green space between Chick-Fil-A and Highway 16

Field opens at 7:15pm

Movie to begin at 8:00pm

We Love Mountain Island Lake will be hosting a Family Movie Night on the evening of Friday, September 21st on the green space between Chick-Fil-A and Highway 16. We’ll be showing The Lorax along with a brief video of the health and environmental issues impacting Mountain Island Lake and our community. More details to come soon. Hope to see you there!