* 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?

* Federal Court: Yes, Burning Trees for Electricity Counts as Air Pollution

Ameresco Biomass Cogeneration Facility at Savannah River Site

In a major legal victory prompted by a Center lawsuit, a federal appeals court ruled last Friday that Clean Air Act limits on carbon dioxide pollution do apply to industrial facilities that burn biomass — including tree-burning power plants. The decision vacated a troubling exemption from pollution-control laws that the EPA had carved out for “biogenic carbon dioxide.”

The court said the agency had improperly exempted all sources of biogenic CO2 from permitting programs meant to protect people and the environment from harmful pollution. In fact, emissions from facilities that burn biomass emit significantly more CO2 per kilowatt of energy than power plants that burn fossil fuels — even coal. Although “biomass” can mean anything from wood to agricultural byproducts to the rubber portion of tires, there’s been a big push in recent years to generate more and more electricity from trees, threatening both forests and the climate.

“Burning trees to generate electricity is dangerous, polluting, and ought to be limited to protect people and the environment,” said Center attorney Kevin Bundy. “This important decision will reduce respiratory ailments, protect forests and help ensure a healthier, more livable climate.”

The Southern Environment Law Center said the ruling “is particularly important for the Southeast,” where rising European demand for wood to be used for energy production has driven a big rise in logging.

“Now we have an opportunity for a more sensible, science-based policy, one that avoids clear-cutting the region’s wildlife-rich forests for energy while intensifying climate change impacts,” said Frank Rambo, head of the Clean Energy and Air Program for the group, which represented Dogwood Alliance, Georgia ForestWatch, South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and Wild Virginia in the case.

Read more in The Huffington Post.

* “We Take Care Of Our Own” – Planet

To reserve a spot on the bus, email Bill Gupton and I’ll add you to the list.

Nobody says it quiet like the Boss. It’s time for us to Take Care of Our Own Planet!

On February 17 thousands of citizens from across America will assemble in front of the White House to call for President Obama to keep his word. And citizens from the greater Charlotte-Mecklenburg region will be there as we make history. Won’t you join us? We announced our trip to DC at our Wednesday night month meeting and in an email. We already have one bus almost half full! If we can fill a second one we’ll find a way

To get on the list email Bill Gupton and I’ll add you to the list. Details on departure times and other logistics will be sent to all asking to reserve a spot. Get on the list if you want to get on the bus! More to follow about our trip. For details about the rally go to the Forward on Climate website.

Won’t you be a part of history and the largest Climate Change Rally in US history? .

Forward on Climate Poster

P.S. To get on the bus email Bill Gupton and I’ll add you to the list.

* 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.

* Town Hall Meeting Tonight, Nov 15, – “Cleaner is Cheaper”

This is going to be an exciting visionary look at what North Carolina’s Energy Future could look like. Join our environmental partner, Greenpeace, for an informative event.

Hello Friends,

Coal has been all over the news this week. Our friends at the Catawba Riverkeeper reported that Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds are leaking toxic substances in Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie. Lab results show that arsenic, barium, chromium, and lead are getting into the lake which is the drinking water supply for Charlotte, and yes, this seepage is alarming. On the bright side, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper took a stand this week against dirty rate hikes and brought his opposition to the Supreme Court; some local activists in Charlotte were arrested for taking a stand against the financing of coal; and a new report shows how many coal-fired power plants, including some that Duke operates here in NC, are ripe for retirement.

Between the stories of disaster and resistance, have you thought about what you can do to make a difference? Join us at a Community Townhall Meeting on Thursday and see where you fit in.

What: Cleaner is Cheaper Community Town hall Meeting
When: Thursday, November 15th @ 7pm – 9pm
Where: Area 15 (15thStreet & N Davidson) 514 E 15th Street, Charlotte, NC 28206

We will be joined by Greenpeace Senior Analyst and Energy Expert, Mike Johnson. Mike is the lead author of of Charting the Correction Course: A Clean Energy Pathway for Duke Energy. (Find the report here.) He has has testified as a renewable energy expert before the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Commerce Commission and Chicago City Council. As past Executive Director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association Mike was featured on the CBS2 Chicago news and, most recently, on MSU campus radio. Throughout his career, Mike has also presented as an invited speaker at a number of related public forums, has been cited in a variety of research publications and served as lead author of a sustainability plan for the City of Highland Park, Illinois. Mike holds a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management and Policy from IIIEE at Lund University in Sweden and an BA in Political Science from Augustana College in Illinois.

Hope to see you there!

Monica Embrey
Greenpeace Field Organizer

* What Obama’s Re-Election Means for Coal, Climate Change and America’s Energy Future

Thanks to everyone that worked for President Obama’s reelection. Now the real work begins! I hope that you’ll be a part of this important campaign.

What Obama’s Re-Election Means for Coal, Climate Change and America’s Energy Future


Beyond Coal Campaign

By Mary Anne Hitt

President Obama’s victory yesterday was a victory for clean energy, one that gives us a fighting chance to slash coal pollution and turn the corner on climate change, in the wake of a devastating hurricane that brought global warming into sharp, painful focus for millions of Americans.

As the Sierra Club’s Michael Brune said on election night, ”We did it.” Fossil fuel billionaires had spent at record levels to defeat Obama in this election, and Romney had returned the favor, promising to open the floodgates on more mining and drilling if elected. But then Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern Seaboard, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed President Obama as the candidate most likely to lead on climate change, and Romney’s dismissal of rising oceans as a laugh line in his GOP Convention speech became an especially chilling out-of-touch episode, in a Republican Presidential campaign that had no shortage of such moments.

Ironically, the coal industry had pinned its hopes on Romney—the consummate businessman—to protect the industry from the harsh realities of the free market. Now, the coal industry will have to stop hiding behind inflammatory slogans like ”the war on coal,” and will have to grapple with a marketplace and an American public that are turning away from coal in favor of cleaner, cheaper sources of energy. Coal will only produce 37 percent of America’s electricity this year, down from 50 percent just five years ago, and those trends show no signs of reversing.

In reality, the decline of coal and the rise of clean energy have more to do with Main Street and Wall Street than with Pennsylvania Avenue. Over the past four years, in almost every state in the nation, hundreds of thousands of people have worked together to retire polluting local coal plants, get more wind and solar power on the grid, and use energy more efficiently. Today, 125 coal plants—out of more than 500 nationwide—are now slated for retirement. As a result, U.S. carbon emissions are at their lowest level in two decades, clean energy is coming on line at record levels, and tens of thousands of Americans now have clean energy jobs.

The marketplace and the American people have spoken, and there is no amount of grandstanding by coal barons that will turn this tide. By the end of Obama’s second term, the Beyond Coal Campaign plans to:

  • Secure the retirement of one-third of the nation’s coal plants.
  • Power the nation with record amounts of clean energy and energy efficiency.
  • End mountaintop removal once and for all.
  • Close additional coal pollution loopholes, including long-overdue protections for carbon, soot, smog, coal ash and water pollution.
  • Prevent increased coal exports overseas to places where it will be burned with fewer pollution controls and no climate safeguards.

Making this happen will require the continued energy and dedication of our Beyond Coal grassroots movement. While the coal industry did its best to paint President Obama as their sworn enemy during the election, in fact, in Obama’s first term, he was a centrist when it came to energy. On one hand, his Administration took historic measures to clean up some of the most dangerous pollution from coal—mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxins—while also putting a carbon standard in place for new power plants. The Obama White House also helped jump start clean energy, creating tens of thousands of new wind and solar jobs and helping to ensure that America will be a lead innovator in the clean energy revolution that will power the nations and economies of the twenty-first century.

On the other hand, some of the worst abuses of the coal industry continued. Mountaintop removal mining operations are still blowing up mountains, burying streams, and causing serious health problems across Appalachia. We don’t yet have carbon standards for existing power plants, which are our single biggest source of greenhouse gases. There are still no national protections for the dumping of toxic coal ash. And when it comes to clean energy and energy efficiency, this country is still far behind much of the rest of the developed world.

No, coal’s decline has less to do with President Obama and more to do with the fact that, after 100 years of heedlessly dumping air and water pollution onto the American people, the day of reckoning has come. Investors know that our fleet of coal plants is outdated, and they are putting their money into cleaner twenty-first century energy technologies like wind and solar—not into propping up coal plants that are reaching the end of their lifespan. Meanwhile, town by town, city by city and state by state, local leaders are making the decision to retire aging coal plants, get rid of the pollution and health problems, and ensure their communities aren’t left behind in the clean energy revolution.

I live in West Virginia, so I’m not surprised that coal mining areas of the U.S. voted overwhelmingly for Romney in this election. As coal is eclipsed by other forms of energy, people in coal country are justifiably concerned about their livelihoods and their future. Perhaps the results of this election will finally push some of our leaders to start talking honestly about the challenges we face and the need to diversify coal state economies—in short, to provide some leadership. Our region’s decision-makers would be doing a far greater service to their constituents by using their political clout to bring federal resources that will help Appalachia and other mining regions make a transition, rather than digging in their heels and refusing to acknowledge that the world is changing.

In Appalachia and beyond, one thing is certain—President Obama’s re-election means that for four more years, the marketplace and the American people will continue to move away from coal, and the coal barons won’t have a crony in the White House to try and stop that inevitable shift.

From the streets of New York ravaged by Hurricane Sandy to the mountains of Appalachia ravaged by mountaintop removal, and from the mother watching her son struggle to breathe to the grandfather watching his granddaughter sleep and worrying he is leaving her a dangerous, unstable planet, Americans are ready to move beyond coal.

President Obama can only help lead the nation there. We are going to have to do the hard work ourselves. But his re-election means we have a fighting chance.


Mary Anne Hitt is the director of the Beyond Coal Campaign.

* Solar is a long-term threat to the Duke Energy 100-year-old profit model

Solar is a long-term threat to Duke Energy, Progress Energy and every other investor owned utility that refuses to adapt and change it’s business model. Solar is a threat to Big Oil, Big Coal, and the Big Frackers. I hope that you’ll take the time to read this and note the bold sections (emphasis added).

This is important information to share. Why? 

Over the next twenty years, through 2032, Duke Energy is planning to fight NC wind and solar development. They see solar as a threat to losing control of their business one roof top at a time.

It is time we let the public know what is really happening. It is time we let Duke Energy, Progress Energy, Big Oil, Big Coal, and the Big Frackers know that we want truly clean, safe and reliable energy in NC. Let’s start today by sharing this information with your elected officials, your network of friends, and with as many people as possible. They need to know that solar is a long-term threat to the Duke Energy 100-year-old profit model and they will fight solar development in NC unless we speak out!

Note: This graph is from the the Duke Energy 2012 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)

Solar Energy Is Ready. The U.S. Isn’t

Realizing solar’s potential requires a smarter national energy policy that takes on entrenched interests

By Ken Wells on October 25, 2012

Clean energy has become a dirty word in presidential politics. In their second debate, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama each tried to outdo the other’s love of fossil fuels: Obama extolling his record on oil and natural gas production, Romney vowing to take “advantage of the oil and coal we have here.” The Republican candidate has ridiculed the administration’s $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra, the bankrupt California-based solar panel maker, and accused Obama of living “in an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.”

The candidates’ coolness to renewable energy comes at a time when the domestic supply of traditional energy sources, such as oil and natural gas, is at an all-time high. And yet this failure to make the promise of renewables a keynote in the debate is a huge missed opportunity. In particular, it ignores the dramatic reduction in the cost of photovoltaic solar power worldwide and the considerable benefits to U.S. consumers and the environment. The untold story of this campaign is that what killed Solyndra may turn out to be a boon for the nation. “Economically and technologically, the game is over,” says Bill Powers, a San Diego engineer and board member of Solar Done Right, a group that proselytizes for rooftop solar power. “The hangups in the U.S. are strictly political.”

Over the past five years the price of photovoltaic panels has plummeted 75 percent, due largely to a glut of Chinese-made panels. The fall in prices rendered technically advanced photovoltaic panels, like those produced by Solyndra and other U.S. companies, too expensive to compete. But cheap panels have been a godsend for consumers such as Powers. He recently took advantage of a sale at his local retail solar panel store and self-installed 1,000 watts of extra solar power on his roof at a cost of $2 a watt, including a 30 percent federal tax credit. Nationally, the average cost of residential installations—including hardware, permits, and labor—has plummeted from $9 a watt in 2006 to $5.46. Averaging in commercial industrial installations, the national installed price plummets to $3.45 a watt, says the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington-based trade group.

The result is a burgeoning rooftop revolution. The SEIA says almost 52,000 residential rooftop systems were installed in the U.S. last year, up 30 percent from a year earlier. Total rooftop installations, including on commercial buildings, grew 109 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to SEIA data. Total photovoltaic installations are projected to grow an additional 71 percent this year from 2011 levels.

Worldwide, the picture is even more positive. Australia projects that 10 percent of its 8 million houses will have rooftop systems within the next 12 months—most of that growth coming in the past three years. European rooftop installations continue to outpace those in the U.S., even as some countries begin to pare subsidies that have helped spur a continental rooftop boom. Including residential, commercial, and industrial-scale projects, the world had installed about 67 gigawatts of photovoltaic power at the end of last year—up from just 1.5 gigawatts in 2000.

Despite such breakthroughs, the U.S. economy is harnessing only a fraction of solar’s potential benefits. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data, about 100 million U.S. residential units could physically hold rooftop systems one day, generating by one estimate 3.75 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year. In 2011, total U.S. electrical generation from all sources was about 4 trillion kilowatt hours—42 percent of that from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The trouble is, many of the big, investor-owned utilities that provide about 85 percent of America’s electricity see solar as both a technical challenge and a long-term threat to their 100-year-old profit models. And the lack of a national energy policy means regulation of solar is up to states, public service commissions, and a wealth of local governments and bureaucracies—many of whom have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

The experience of Orrin Kohon, a Los Angeles resident with a second home in Hawaii, reflects the hurdles facing consumers hoping to join the rooftop movement. If all goes well, Kohon will soon receive local government approval to let workers mount an $18,000 leased solar power system on the roof of his Honolulu house. Monthly electric bills for his modest 1,750-square-foot abode run about $400—at 32.6¢ per kilowatt hour, the highest in the nation. With his rooftop system, installed by a third-party contractor, he’ll generate enough of his own power to lower that rate to 7.3¢ per kilowatt hour for the next 20 years. That’s a savings, he says, of $120,000 over that period. “It’s a hedge, like locking in $2-a-gallon gasoline,” says the 63-year-old owner of a Los Angeles career counseling service. “The thing is, I have to act now. If too many of my neighbors beat me to the punch, I won’t be able to connect.”

That’s because thousands of Hawaii residents have also realized that even the most elaborate systems, costing up to $55,000, can pay for themselves in as little as four years given current power rates and state and federal incentives that chop up to two-thirds off the installation price. This rooftop stampede is overwhelming the permit process—70 percent of all current permit applications in the state are for solar installations—and causing utilities to impose moratoriums in some areas on how much solar they are willing to accept to their power grids.

The rule of thumb had been that once rooftop installations made up 15 percent of the power on a given circuit, utilities could stay new connections until residents undertook an engineering study—costing as much as $50,000—that showed their addition wouldn’t destabilize the power grid. While that rule has been eased to 25 percent in Hawaii, the extra burden on consumers explains why “there are places on Maui where the saturation is such that we don’t even solicit for business there,” says Alex Tiller, chief executive officer of Sunetric, a Hawaii-based rooftop solar power installer.

The hidden costs of obtaining permits and regulators’ approval to install rooftop panels is a big reason the U.S. lags behind Germany, which leads the world in rooftop installations, with more than 1 million. The price of installed rooftop solar in Germany has fallen to $2.24 per watt. In fact, on a sunny day in May, rooftop provided all of Germany’s power needs for two hours. “This is a country on latitude with Maine,” says Dennis Wilson, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar-installer trade group. “Germany is showing us what’s possible—if we can just get our act together.”

That’s easier said than done. Unlike the U.S., Germany has a national solar policy, a quick, inexpensive permitting process, and a national mandate that utilities sign up rooftop installations under what’s known as a feed-in tariff—essentially a long-term contract whereby the utilities agree not just to allow the solar on their grids but also to buy the excess power from consumers.

By contrast, the U.S. has more than 18,000 jurisdictions at the state and local level that have a say in how rooftop solar is rolled out, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. What’s more, electricity is supplied by investor-owned utilities, mostly state-regulated monopolies, which supply power from centralized hubs to captured consumers. Profit is in part tied to growth based on an ever-expanding demand as populations increase.

Rooftop solar poses a threat to that model by turning consumers into producers, thereby sapping utility revenue streams. It also diminishes the need to build expensive new plants and transmission lines. The saturation limits being imposed by utilities in places with booming rooftop demand “are a bit like speed bumps,” says Mark Duda of RevoluSun, Hawaii’s largest residential rooftop installer. “They want to slow things down out of fear of being overrun by PV.”

While some large utilities are embracing solar—California’s Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) has 40,000 solar connections and an easy-to-follow guide encouraging consumers to sign up—many utilities and their political backers are standing in the way of changes that could boost U.S. energy independence, reduce carbon emissions, and save consumers billions. The U.S. needs more initiatives like the SunShot Rooftop Solar Challenge, launched by the Department of Energy to find ways to lower installation costs by cutting down permit times and removing siting restrictions in 19 states. The goal is get these so-called soft costs down to $1 a watt—which would make homegrown solar competitive with commercial power rates in many states.

Congress should also extend beyond 2016 the 30 percent federal solar tax credit for rooftop installation, then gradually phase it out. Five years from now, solar—without subsidies—will be competitive with conventional power prices in 17 states, and the credit could greatly increase that number. Rooftop solar “is a game changer,” says Powers. “And the game is already on.”