NC Sierra Club Speaks Out on Crazy Fracking and Regulatory Reform Legislation

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club
Last week we saw a flurry of news hits and participation.
Here’s a look back.
The week started off with Foothills and Chapter Steering Committee member Gus Preschle getting a letter to the editor published in the Winston Salem Journal.
Your May 13 story “Foot traffic light for community meeting” was short and to the point. The writer states that foot traffic was largely nonexistent at Duke Energy’s community event in Eden. The three dozen smiling Duke Energy employees were probably wondering what it would take to get Duke Energy’s good name back.
Molly and Dustin were quoted in several news outlets on fracking.
North Carolina wants in on the fracking game (Washington Post) - But environmentalists say the legislature is reneging on a pledge it made in 2012 to allow the Mining and Energy Commission to establish a regulatory framework for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, a spokesman for North Carolina’s chapter of the Sierra Club, said the legislature should vote on whether to allow hydraulic fracturing after the commission’s rules are finalized.
 
Fracking: With drilling on horizon, opponents prepare for fight (Fayetteville Observer) - The North Carolina Sierra Club, which says fracking should not be allowed until the state has adopted adequate protections for ground water and drinking water, will use its political action committee to endorse candidates whom it views as friendly to the environment.
 
North Carolina Senate Passes Pro-Fracking Bill (Al Jazeera America) -This has left some North Carolinians confused. Why, they wonder, is the state’s Senate pushing so hard to lift a ban on gas drilling before its Mining and Energy Commission even has a chance to draft and receive comment on the rules that would regulate fracking in the state?  “In 2012 the Senate promised that the rules developed by the Mining and Energy Commission would be put in place before fracking was allowed,” said Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, the communications director of the North Carolina branch of the Sierra Club. 
 
Granting NC Fracking Permits in 2015 Has Senate OK (ABC 11) – Sierra Club appears in the ABC 11 video, not the AP story below.
 

The NC Chapter also contributed to a number of stories on the massive regulatory reform bill that started to move this week.

 
NC environmentalists worried by GOP-backed bill (AP) – Molly Diggins, the North Carolina director of the Sierra Club, said the group successfully fought a similar measure from becoming law in the state during the mid-1990s. A note on the ALEC webpage says the language was first approved by the organization’s board in 1996.  “This provision allows companies to hide information that may document knowing, intentional and ongoing violations,” Diggins said. “It gives companies the ability to avoid potential enforcement action, penalties and bad publicity. It would better be called the ‘environmental secrecy’ provision.”
NC Senate Pushes Forward Sweeping Regulatory Reform Bill (WUNC) – “There is the concern that removing the possibility of getting in trouble as long as they [industries or polluters] clean up, as long as they report it, will create questions as far as if best practices are going to be kept in place,” says David Chicurel-Bayard of the Sierra’s Club North Carolina Chapter.
Regulatory reform heads for Senate floor (WRAL) – One provision would allow regulated businesses to avoid civil fines or penalties for a leak or spill as long as they report it and correct it. Molly Diggins with the North Carolina Sierra Club says that’s a return to the 1990s, when regulatory enforcement was far more lax. As written, Diggins says, “It arguably would allow Duke Energy, if they did voluntary site cleanups and inspections, to have that information be confidential and to get blanket immunity from fines.”
Bill Would Restrict Permit Challenges (Coastal Review) – Molly Diggins, director of the N.C. chapter of the Sierra Club, said the changes would effectively prevent environmental groups and others from challenging permits issued to heavy industries, like Titan America. The company wants to build a controversial cement plant near Wilmington. It received a state air permit, but a coalition of groups, including the N.C. Coastal Federation, challenged the permit, claiming the company wasn’t reducing emissions to the levels required by federal law.  “The challenge to Titan could not have gone forward under this provision,” Diggins said.
 
Dustin Chicurel-Bayard
Communications Director, NC Sierra Club

Act Today – The Senate could approve Keystone XL tomorrow

Keystone XL Urgent Senate Vote: Take action!

Tell your senators:

“The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward for America. With climate change already harming our communities and pocketbooks across America now is the time for clean energy, not expansion of dirty energy such as tar sands. I urge you to stand against Keystone XL.”

Add your voice:

Take Action!

Dear Friends,

The Senate may vote as early as tomorrow to force the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, and reports suggest it could come down to a few votes.

We can’t let a group of senators in the pocket of Big Oil approve this pipeline. Send a message to your senators right now to tell them to say NO to KXL!

Approving Keystone XL would open the floodgates of climate-killing tar sands crude flowing through the U.S. It would ensure more disastrous oil spills, threaten sources of drinking water for millions, disrupt wildlife, and increase rates of cancer and other health problems in Canada and in refinery communities here in the United States.

Keystone XL is all risk and no reward.

If you have any doubt who these pro-pipeline senators are working for, consider this: the senators who are supporting this bill have received $21 million in contributions from Big Oil. On average, each cosponsor of the bill has received roughly $375,000 from the oil industry.1

Take a moment to remind your senators that our climate, our land, our water and our health are not for sale to Big Oil. Urge them to reject this attempt to hijack the review process and approve Keystone XL!

Together, we’ve kept Keystone XL from being built for five years — keeping more than 200 million metric tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere to date. We’ve come too far to have Big Oil write a fat check and buy the approval of this dirty tar sands pipeline from the U.S. Senate.

It’s important that your senators hear from you right now. Take a minute right now to stop the approval of Keystone XL.

Thanks for all you do for the environment,

Michael Marx
Sierra Club Beyond Oil Campaign Director

P.S. Amplify your voice by forwarding a copy of this message to five of your friends and family and let them know how they can help stop Keystone XL. Or spread the word on social media with the share buttons below:

Share this action on Facebook | Share this action on Twitter

[1] Oil Change International, Oil money behind Keystone XL Senate bill breaks 20 million dollars, May 1, 2014

Take Action: Oppose Dirty Energy, Support Clean Energy

Speak out today!

Take Action: Stop a Flood of Natural Gas Exports Take Action: Stop a Flood of Natural Gas ExportsLegislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that would rubberstamp exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. without any review or protections in place for the American public and our environment. This would essentially open the floodgates for natural gas exports, leading to more hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) here at home and more climate-disrupting pollution.

Take Action
Tell your senators and representative to oppose legislation that would rubberstamp liquefied natural gas exports!


Take Action: Tell the Senate to Protect Clean Energy Jobs Take Action: Tell the Senate to Protect Clean Energy Jobs

Last week, the Senate Finance committee moved to extend a package of critical clean energy tax credits, including the production tax credit for wind. We need the Senate to vote on this package immediately to ensure that clean, cheap, American-made clean energy continues to grow.

Take Action
Please tell your senators to bring the EXPIRE Act to the floor and vote yes.

Don’t Miss a Fracking Good Time! – March 27

Please make plans to take part in a powerful event this March 27th at 6:30 PM! Charlotte is one of only 2 North Carolina locations chosen for the national fracked communities tour. You’ll definitely want to hear the stories and learn how we can help protect our air, water, and lands.

STFA-NC-Tour-Meme-5

Can you join us on Thursday, March 27th at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte to hear how fracked communities are fighting back?

Fracking wells, industrial zones, and contaminated water. Those are the realities that people across the country are living with where fracking exists. We know that North Carolina isn’t worth the risk, and some friends are coming to town to help us fight back.

“Cautionary Tales of Fracked Communities,” a nationwide speakers tour, is coming to Charlotte to help us in our fight. It’s a chance to hear from people living in the shadow of gas rigs, and learn how they are fighting back.

Thursday March 27 at 6:30 PM

Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte

 

234 North Sharon Amity Road

Charlotte, NC 28211

Speakers will include:

  • Karen Feridun, a grassroots activist from Kutztown, PA who is fighting against fracking in her community. She helped convince the Pennsylvania Democratic party to add a Fracking Moratorium to their party platform.
  • Jill Wiener, small business owner turned activist from New York who has been leading the charge to keep fracking out of New York.
  • Robert Nehman, a father from Iowa whose life was turned upside down after frac sand mining came to his town

The second part of the meeting will be a training on how to meet with elected officials.

Together, we can keep fracking out of North Carolina, and ensure that the next series of cautionary tales aren’t from the Tarheel state.

See you there!

Fracking Tour Sponsors

James Taylor says fracking in Carolina is on his mind

James Taylor is speaking out against fracking in North Carolina! Sweet Baby James  is starring in TV spots for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the first step in what will be a major anti-fracking campaign between now and the next legislative session in May. NRDC and other environmental groups are working together to point out the dangers of fracking in North Carolina.

Mark your calendar for March 27! That’s when experts from across the country will be gathering in Charlotte for an educational and training event on Fracking. Details to follow!

Here’s more about NC Fracking from the Natural Resources Defense Council -

The North Carolina General Assembly and Governor Pat McCrory are on a headlong rush to open North Carolina to fracking. Already, at their direction, the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission has approved rules that would let fracking companies some of the chemicals they pump into the ground secret, and the commission is paving the way to let these companies frack under North Carolinians’ property whether they want it or not.

What’s next? That depends on whether North Carolinians stand up to fracking, or stand aside and let out-of-state fracking companies determine the state’s future.

All across the country, the oil and gas industry is pushing the controversial practice of fracking without sufficient safeguards to protect Americans’ drinking water supplies, public health or the environment. If what’s happened in other states is any indication, North Carolina could soon face a host of potential problems — from air pollution to water contamination — as oil and gas companies roll in. Communities and individuals could lose their rights to determine for themselves whether and/or how this practice is allowed to move forward in their own backyards.

Polling shows most North Carolina residents oppose opening the state to fracking altogether — and for good reason. Reckless fracking is not the right path for North Carolina. The state’s moratorium on fracking was enacted for a reason. It should not be lifted until the state fully assesses the risks and determines how to truly protect North Carolinians against them.

* Sierra Club 2013 Year in Review

Thanks to everyone for the great food and fellowship last night at our monthly meeting! It was a great time to get together and reflect about our challenges and accomplishments in 2013. Again,  thanks to the many members, supporters and partner organizations that helped to make all this happen. Click below to see the presentation.

I hope that you’ll review it and think about the great work that we accomplished and how you’ll help to make a difference in 2014.

Enjoy!

2013 Year in ReviewCPG 2013 Year in Review

 

* A Keystone XL Thanksgiving Dinner

We have a lot to be thankful for – and we’re especially thankful that you’re one of millions of Americans who won’t buy what TransCanada is selling.

But some folks still don’t get it and are eating up the lies:

We know that Canadian tar sands oil isn’t for us. It’s dangerous, harmful and could be a disaster for our health and our environment.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Source: Re-post from NextGen Climate Action

* NC Chapter Sierra Club DENR Update and Opportunity to weigh in on water quality

We need to protect these waters!

riverbasinmap

Dear Friends,

An important opportunity for you to weigh in on what North Carolina is doing to protect water quality is coming up soon:  November 19th.

After you have read the update below, please let me know if you are interested in attending and speaking at the upcoming public hearing in Raleigh on water quality, or if you would like additional info to assist you in submitting comments.  You can reach me at cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org.

Your input is important not only for DENR to hear, but also for EPA.  We understand officials from EPA will be present for the hearing.

I hope you will take advantage of this important opportunity to press North Carolina to fill in the gaps in the state’s water protection programs!

Background:

As you may know, the Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, requires states to implement pollution control programs to protect water quality. The Clean Water Act made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source (like a pipe or ditch from a factory) into navigable waters, unless a permit is obtained. The EPA sets water quality standards for contaminants and industrial and municipal facilities (like factories and water treatment plants) must obtain permits if their discharges go directly into rivers, lakes or streams. States have flexibility in creating individualized programs to comply with the Clean Water Act; in North Carolina the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is obligated to do so.

Many, but not all, of our waterways are cleaner than they were in 1972 because of the Clean Water Act. One of the reasons behind the Act’s success is citizen-involvement. Citizens can comment on permits issued under the Clean Water Act, influence DENR rulemaking having to do with water quality, and to initiate lawsuits for non-compliance.

Tuesday, November 19th is an opportunity for this kind of citizen involvement. Under the federal Clean Water Act, each state is required to hold a public hearing, at least once every three years (called a triennial review), for the purpose of reviewing and possibly modifying water quality standards. These standards provide criteria for issuing wastewater discharge permits and determining which waters are “impaired”. North Carolina’s last public hearings were in 2006; the last changes to our water quality standards went into effect in 2007. Verbal and written comments will be accepted at the upcoming meeting and written comments accepted through the end of the year.

What: Triennial Review Public Hearing

When: November 19, 2013, 1:30 pm

Where: Ground Floor Hearing Room, Archdale Building, 512 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh

North Carolina’s water quality standards are not  up to par with what is required by the Clean Water Act and some of our standards are nonexistent. There are two major inadequacies with North Carolina’s implementation (or non-implementation) of the Clean Water Act:

  • Heavy Metals Standards Need Update – North Carolina is the only state in Southeast that has not adopted nationally recommended criteria for metals. Heavy metals are natural and small amounts are normal; however, high concentrations can lead to poisoning. Heavy metals may enter our waters via industrial wastewater discharges and stormwater runoff and become more concentrated in people and fish over time. During the last triennial review, substantial changes to several heavy metals standards – cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, silver and zinc – were proposed by DENR to be updated, but never were. Its time for North Carolina to adopt the nationally recommended criteria for metals.
  • Nutrient Standards Needed to Protect Lakes and Rivers - Our waters receive nutrient runoff from urban areas (stormwater runoff), agricultural areas, and sewage treatment facilities. These nutrients can cause algal blooms, which may lead to bad taste and odor and can cause dissolved oxygen to decrease to levels that suffocate fish. North Carolina is lagging behind other states in developing nutrient water quality standards. DENR’s draft Nutrient Criteria Development Plan is to embark on nearly seven years of study before beginning actual rulemaking; this appears to be more like a delay than a plan.

When a state fails to adopt water quality standards consistent with the Clean Water Act, the EPA is allowed to impose those standards, but this is rare. DENR has delayed instituting EPA requirements even though approximately seven in ten North Carolinians say they support the EPA’s work to cut carbon pollution and protect our air, water and health, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) for the Natural Resources Defense Council. The survey shows that about 65% of North Carolinians say the EPA is not doing enough or is doing just the right amount to protect health and the environment and only 28% say the EPA is doing too much.

Please contact the Governor and ask him to ensure that North Carolina’s water quality is protected.  And please attend the November 19th hearing or submit written comments to Connie Brower, Division of Water Resources at connie.brower@ncdenr.gov or 1611 Mail Service Center; Raleigh, NC 27699. The comment period ends January 3, 2014.

Please let me know if you are interested in attending and speaking at the upcoming public hearing in Raleigh on water quality, or if you would like additional info to assist you in submitting comments.  You can reach me at cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org.

Best regards,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

19 W. Hargett Street, Suite 210

Raleigh, NC 27601

919.833.8467 x 104

* NC Chapter Sierra Club DENR Update – Oct 28

NCDENR

Dear Friends,

As you may know, the DENR Division of Water Resources regulates wastewater discharged from coal ash ponds to state waters, stream and lakes and investigates, monitors and regulates remediation of groundwater pollution. Coal ash pollution contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and hexavalent chromium. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash dumping have been known for many years, including increased risk of cancer, neurological disorders, asthma, and other illnesses. Coal ash pollution can seep into groundwater; especially if stored in unlined ponds. In the past month several stories about coal ash and groundwater pollution in North Carolina have popped up.   Two communities, one near Wilmington and one near Asheville, are facing possible well contamination from coal ash.

Duke Energy operates two unlined coal ash ponds covering 110 acres at the the Sutton coal-burning steam plant in Wilmington, NC. Flemington is a community located off US-421 in Wilmington, near the Sutton plant that is facing groundwater pollution concerns for the second time. The groundwater in the area flows from the Sutton plant towards Flemington. Back in the 1980’s a now-closed county landfill contaminated private wells in the community and so the county had to drill new wells for some residents. Now, decades later, the local water authority and Duke Energy have agreed to share the cost of monitoring wells and extending water lines to the community because the Sutton coal ash ponds may, eventually, contaminate the wells. For good local coverage of this issue see the Star News and Port City Daily stories.

It is good that the Cape Fear water authority and Duke Energy are working on ensuring that Flemington gets safe drinking water, but it would be even better if the coal ash pollution could be cleaned up and disposed of in the safest manner possible so that the threat of more groundwater contamination is mitigated. This is the kind of problem that could be avoided with strong state water quality regulations and strong enforcement by DENR. It’s been reported that Duke Energy has a plan for the closure of the coal ash ponds at Sutton as part of the plant’s closure and conversion from coal to natural gas but plan details are hazy. It is Duke Energy’s responsibility to provide this to the state as part of its overall closure plan.

Flemington isn’t the only community in North Carolina that is facing the threat of contaminated well water due to coal ash.  Groundwater contamination was recently found in a residential well located in between the French Broad River and Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds for the company’s Asheville Plant.  Last week, DENR directed Duke Energy to supply alternative drinking water to an Arden home after tests revealed that the residential well is contaminated. And, DENR has asked Duke Energy to install off-site monitoring wells in the area to determine the extent of chemical contamination. Again, like in Flemington, it is good that DENR is getting safe drinking water to citizens with contaminated wells and requiring more water testing but what is being done to clean up groundwater and prevent more groundwater pollution?

The risk of groundwater becoming contaminated by coal ash pollution can be reduced by drying out the wet ash and transferring it into dry storage in lined landfills. North Carolina should develop standards for coal ash disposal to ensure best practices for protection of our surface and groundwater resources. And, the state should request a coal ash pond closure plan for Sutton from Duke Energy and make the plan available to the public for input.

In August, the Sierra Club filed a request to join in a lawsuit that DENR brought against Duke Energy over groundwater pollution from coal ash at the Sutton plant to ensure that the state requires a full and proper clean up. Coal ash is not yet subject to federal protections but is currently in a kind of legal limbo. We are waiting for the EPA to promulgate rules for management of coal ash. A federal court has ordered the EPA to issue such rules but there is no time frame for when these will be completed.

Please contact Zak Keith, our organizer in Wilmington, NC,  if you would like to join the Cape Fear Group‘s upcoming conservation outing on Saturday November 9th to boat down the Cape Fear River, see the Sutton power plant and learn more about coal ash.  And, please contact GovernorMcCrory to urge him to ensure that North Carolina’s surface and groundwater resources are protected.

Best regards,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

19 W. Hargett Street, Suite 210

Raleigh, NC 27601

919.833.8467 x 104