Duke Energy Coal Ash Numbers

The following is a re-post from a NC Policy Watch article on 8/4/2014 by Chris Fitzsimon.

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183—number of days since a massive coal ash spill at an abandoned Duke Energy power plant near Eden contaminated the Dan River with 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 24 million gallons of ash-contaminated wastewater (Appalachian Voices)

33—number of unlined coal ash pits that Duke Energy has at 14 sites throughout North Carolina (Associated Press: “NC House approves Duke coal ash cleanup bill” – July 3, 2014)

100—percentage of these sites that are currently leaching contaminants into surrounding soil and groundwater (“Unlined and Dangerous: Duke Energy’s 32 Coal Ash Ponds in North Carolina Pose a Threat to Groundwater” National Geographic, March 5, 2014)

100—number of days since Governor Pat McCrory proposed a “coal ash action plan” and called on legislative leaders to work with him to enact it (“Governor McCrory Outlines Comprehensive Coal Ash Action Plan,” Press Release, Office of the Governor, April 16, 2014)

88—number of days since Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said responding to the coal ash spill was one of the top priorities for the 2014 General Assembly session  (“Berger: Drilling, easing regulations, teacher pay on NC Legislature’s to-do list, News & Observer, May 14, 2014)

82—number of days since House Speaker Thom Tillis said coal ash legislation was a top priority for the 2014 General Assembly session (“Speaker sets legislative agenda for state House, WRAL-TV, May 14, 2014)

82—number of days since the 2014 session of the General Assembly session began (N.C. General Assembly)

2—number of days since the General Assembly concluded work in its summer session, with the House recessing until August 14 and the Senate returning November 17 (Ibid)

0—number of bills addressing the coals ash crisis passed by the General Assembly since lawmakers convened for the summer session May 14 (Ibid)

3—number of days since members of the Senate blamed House negotiators for failing to reach a final agreement on coal ash legislation (“N.C. legislature puts coal ash action on hold, Greensboro News & Record, August 2, 2014)

3—number of days since members of the House blamed Senate negotiators for failing to reach a final agreement on coal ash legislation (Ibid)

3—number of days since Governor Pat McCrory issued an executive order calling for cleanup plans at leaking coal ash ponds and surveys at area drinking wells (Ibid)

3—number of days since environmentalists pointed out that McCrory’s executive order merely restates authority state already has under existing law (Ibid)

10—number of registered lobbyists Duke Energy employs in North Carolina state government in 2014 (N.C. Secretary of State Lobbyist registration website)

1.6 million—amount in dollars of combined political contributions from Duke Energy to the campaign committees of Governor McCrory since 2008 and the outside political groups that helped his gubernatorial campaigns (“As Coal Ash Controversy Intensified, Duke Gave Another $437,000 to Help GOP Causes in 2013,” Democracy North Carolina, February 14, 2014)

28—number of years McCrory worked for Duke prior to his election in 2012 (“Institute Index: Duke Energy coal ash spill latest in ongoing regulatory disaster,” Institute for Southern Studies)

Hand Image: Appalachian Voices

NC Sierra Club Legislative Report August 2, 2014

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

This was a rollercoaster of a week in the General Assembly as is often the case the last week of session.  The catch is, lawmakers plan to return in just a few weeks and again in November before really adjourning the 2013 “short” session. Although the House and Senate came to agreement on a budget, some major decisions are left on the table, including a coal ash bill and a Medicaid bill.

Update on the coal ash bill:

You may recall that the Senate voted to not concur on the coal ash bill (S729) after it was revised and passed by the House. Therefore, the following conferees were appointed to negotiate a final bill:

From the Senate: Senators Berger (R – Guilford, Rockingham), Wade (R – Guilford) and Apodaca (R – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania)

From the House: Representatives McGrady (R – Henderson), Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg), Hager (R – Burke, Rutherford) and Glazier (D – Cumberland).

These conferees worked to negotiate the details of a final bill, but were unable to reach agreement. The Senate conferees plus Rep. Hager, a former Duke Energy employee, agreed on a Senate revision of the bill – the details of which are unknown. Separately, three House conferees came to agreement on a House revision of the bill. The House revision includes language to disallow capping in place if coal ash is proven to be in contact with the water table – to protect against groundwater contamination.  Coal ash is contaminating groundwater around all 33 coal ash ponds and, in some cases, nearby drinking water wells. One of the primary objectives of any coal ash legislation should be to put a stop to this. It appears that the Senate would not agree to the House water quality proposal, amongst others – and that is what resulted in an impasse.  Thursday night the Senate threatened to pass the House bill without any changes from the conference committee – but that would have meant not getting the changes championed by Senator Apodaca – including revision of the variance procedure and changing the placement of the new Coal Ash Management Commission away from DENR.  It appears that the Senate and House will continue to negotiate the coal ash bill; the adjournment resolution listed it as a bill that will be taken up in November session – but the resolution could be amended to allow for it to be considered in August.

Opportunity for Action:

Please thank Representatives McGrady, Samuelson and Glazier for pressing for stronger groundwater protections in the coal ash bill. And urge them to continue to strive for this in any coal ash legislation that is passed.

Legislation Passed in the Final(ish) Week of Session:

The budget – H 744

The Senate’s budget proposal had a number of concerning things in it related to fracking. For example – the Senate wished to allocate public funds for exploratory wells and for advertising North Carolina for fracking. The fracking funds were thankfully removed by the House and stayed out of the final budget.  And, although the Clean Water Management Trust Fund didn’t get the hoped-for amount of conservation funding, there was a new allocation to the Fund for $500,000 to go towards local projects to reduce stormwater pollution into some of the state’s most polluted lakes. Representative Tom Murry (R- Wake) and Senator Tamara Barringer (R- Wake) played key roles in creating this new funding stream that could help reduce pollution flowing into Jordan Lake, Falls Lake and other drinking water reservoirs that have nutrient overload problems. This is the kind of forward-looking measure that the legislature should look to instead of delaying clean up rules and leasing water mixers for Jordan Lake that cannot physically prevent pollution. The House had proposed $10 million for land conservation but the final budget instead includes only earmarks up to $3 million in for one particular park acquisition which is somewhat disappointing.  Please thank Representative Murry and Senator Barringer for their efforts to put some funding towards pollution prevention in a difficult  budget year.

A bill to replace riparian buffer rules with new industry-approved rules:

S 883 “Disapprove/Amend Buffer Rules” strikes a list of environmental rules created to protect water quality that were only recently adopted in favor of different rules that were developed by an industry stakeholder group. The existing buffer rules resulted from a lengthy stakeholder negotiation process in which environmental groups were involved while the proposed rules were created by a separate stakeholder group that did not include environmental groups. Overall this bill seems to be based on a flawed process and to benefit mitigation bankers at the expense of water quality. Governor McCrory immediately signed this bill into law.

A bill that will create a new exemption to public records law to shield agricultural operations:

H 366, the Farm Act, which passed today, contains a provision creating a new unnecessary exemption to state public records law. The bill says that complaints about agricultural operations will be kept secret unless and until DENR decides that there was a violation. This means that citizen complaints that alert DENR to environmental problems will not be able to be discovered by a public records request unless it turns out that the complaint led to a violation. Making unwarranted or frivolous complaints is already a crime – so there is no need to create special carve outs from public records laws which are meant to improve government transparency.

And Legislation that we wish was dead but may return in August or November:

A bill that would limit the ability of local governments to fund public transportation

H 1224 “Local Sales Tax for Education/Econ Dev Changes” stalled this week in the House. It would cap the total sales tax a county may levy at a rate that presents problems for Triangle communities that have plans to create a regional transit system. H 1224 passed the Senate but then rather than pass it, the House referred the bill to the House Rules Committee for further consideration (or perhaps to die).

Three regulatory reform bills that contain a variety of bad environmental provisions:

H 761, S 734 “ and S 38 are all so-called “regulatory reform” bills that contain a variety of changes and updates to laws, some innocuous and some provisions that when added up look like a polluter’s wishlist. Some of the sections Sierra Club opposed include: requiring removal of air quality monitors, making citizen environmental suits on air quality more difficult, reducing permitting requirements for building in coastal wetlands, and reducing protections for isolated wetlands. Nearly all of the undesirable environmental provisions were added into these bills by the Senate, but yet the Senate did not vote on them.  The adjournment resolution passed by the House identifies certain bills that may be addressed on August 14th – and these regulatory reform bills are on the list. We are hopeful that these bills do not go forward – or if they do – we hope that the worst environmental provisions do not stay in.

Thank you for taking action,

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

Sierra Club NC Chapter Legislative Update – July 25, 2014

Dear Friends,

This was somewhat of a slower week in the General Assembly as most House members did not come to Raleigh until Thursday and the Senate had a light committee schedule. Lawmakers took a break from testy budget negotiations so the drama between the House and Senate (which have vastly different budget proposals) died down compared to previous weeks. All negotiations – and associated rancor between the chambers – is likely to start back up next week.
Update on the coal ash bill: 
You may recall that last week the Senate voted to not concur on the coal ash bill – S 729 – which means that House and Senate conferees will privately negotiate a final bill. Senate conferees were appointed last week; they are: Senators Berger (R – Guilford, Rockingham), Wade (R – Guilford) and Apodaca (R – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania). House conferees were appointed this week and they are: Representatives McGrady (R – Henderson), Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg), Hager (R – Burke, Rutherford) and Glazier (D – Cumberland).  These conferees will negotiate the details of the final bill, sign a conference report, and then the conference report will go back to each chamber for approval.
Opportunity for Action:
As you may recall, the coal ash bill still lacks assurances that groundwater will be protected from coal ash pollution at all sites. Please contact the conferees and ask them to ensure that any closure method Duke Energy is allowed to use is protective of groundwater.
The legislature targets water quality and energy efficiency standards:
Today the legislature passed House Bill 201 “Building Reutilization for Economic Development Act” – chipping away at stormwater management and energy efficiency standards. Last week, the Senate Rules Committee introduced a revised and renamed bill from the 2013 session with four new pages of exemptions for commercial redevelopment projects from:
- energy efficiency standards in the NC Building Code Energy Code;
- stormwater rules to prevent runoff of pollution during rain; and
- the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) – which requires preparation of a report disclosing environmental impacts for projects that receive public funds.
Next H 201 goes to Governor McCrory for signature to become law. The result of this bill will be that some commercial buildings will be allowed to be built 30% less energy efficient, get exemptions from stormwater rules and exemptions from the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). While weakened standards may be attractive to some developers, this bill represents an overall loss to the public in terms of energy savings, water quality and knowledge about the environmental impacts of publicly funded projects. Taxpayers deserve to know if projects that have an element of public funding are impacting the environment. Further, it’s crucial that new construction be held to current efficiency standards to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Thursday, H 201 was the focus of a debate in the House. Representatives Luebke (D – Durham), McGrady (R – Henderson), Glazier (D – Cumberland), and G. Martin (D – Wake) expressed concerns about the substance of the bill and the way new sections were added by the Senate just last week – with no time for House members to consider the impacts. Representative G. Martin made a motion for the bill to be sent to House Environment Committee where it could be properly vetted by House members – but his motion was tabled (a procedural move to avoid taking a vote). We asked House members not to concur on this bill – but a majority of the House did so – and so the bill passed 66-42. Please thank the members who spoke up against this bill and those who voted against it.
The Senate aims to replace riparian buffer rules: 
S 883 “Disapprove/Amend Buffer Rules” would strike a list of environmental rules created to protect water quality that were only recently adopted in favor of different rules that were developed by an industry stakeholder group. This bill passed the Senate this week and was referred by the House to the Environment Subcommittee of the Committee on Regulatory Reform for review. The existing buffer rules resulted from a lengthy stakeholder negotiation process in which environmental groups were involved while the proposed rules were created by a separate stakeholder group that did not include environmental groups. Overall this bill seems to be based on a flawed process and to benefit mitigation bankers at the expense of water quality.
And the Senate may not not share Triangle residents’ regional transit dreams: 
The Senate passed H 1224 “Local Sales Tax for Education/Econ Dev Changes” this week to cap the total sales tax a county may levy. Last week’s version of H 1224 would have disallowed counties from using local sales tax revenues to fund both public education and public transit (strangely forcing a choice between the two). Thankfully, the bill was amended this week to fix that problem. Unfortunately the sales tax cap still presents problems for Triangle communities that have plans to create a regional transit system. H 1224 was referred to the House Finance Committee for further consideration.
Thank you for your dedication and advocacy!
Best,
Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

Protect Our Democracy: Important Mecklenburg Elections Board meeting July 29

The following is an action alert from Democracy North Carolina about an upcoming meeting to determine our fall voting schedule. Please support.

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Mecklenburg County Supporters,

There will be an important meeting of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Tuesday, July 29, at noon at the Board of Elections office located at 741 Kenilworth Ave. in Charlotte. We need you there!

Throughout June and July, advocates have been attending county meetings all over the state and making a huge difference! The 3-member board (2 Republicans and 1 Democrat) will be discussing Mecklenburg County’s early voting plan for the November election. The public can attend the meeting and comment about potential locations for early voting sites, evening and weekend voting hours, and more.

From October 23 to November 1, 2014, Mecklenburg County is required by law to open enough voting sites and hours to total up to at least 1,475 hours of early voting (based on what it provided in 2010). The only way the county can provide less time is to get a “waiver” from the State Board of Elections which requires a unanimous vote by every member of both the county and state elections boards.

Democracy North Carolina encourages local advocates to push for strong early voting plans, including hours on both Saturdays at all the early voting locations and possibly on Sunday, too, if you have support of a board member. Evening hours also allow people to vote after the work day.

Click here for a guide to learn more about early voting plans.

Show up and show your support for a strong early voting plan for your county!

Onward,

Robert Dawkins

Western NC Organizer

Democracy North Carolina

Early Voting PlanEarly Voting Advocacy

July 23rd Monthly Meeting: Outdoor Treasures of Mecklenburg County

Outdoor Treasures

Please join us on Wednesday July 23rd for a presentation on the Outdoor Treasures of Mecklenburg County.

Stephen Hutchinson, Nature Center Manager at Latta Plantation, will present on the abundant resources of Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation Department. You will be delighted to learn about such great opportunities as kayak tours, canoe rentals, horseback riding, tractor drawn hay rides, cowboy style campfire dinners, Segway adventure tours, GPS treasure hunts, hiking, camping, and more – all nearby.

As usual our meeting is at the Mahlon Adams Pavilion in Freedom Park. It begins at 6:30pm with free pizza, followed by a short business meeting, and then the formal presentation.

Parking is free. All are welcome. We look forward to seeing you.

Sierra Club NC Chapter – Legislative Update 07-18-14

Protect Enviro Democracy

Dear Friends,

This week in the General Assembly it began to really feel like the end of session with a variety of old proposals resurfacing and quickly moving through committees without much discussion.

Update on the coal ash bill:

On Monday the Senate failed to concur on the coal ash bill – S 729 – which means that House and Senate conferees will negotiate a final bill behind closed doors. Senator Apodaca asked Senators to not concur so that some changes made by the House could be fixed. Apodaca specifically noted that he does not support the variance procedure added by the House that would allow the Secretary of DENR to approve variances to deadlines in the bill and he does not support housing the new Coal Ash Management Commission under DENR. The Senate’s version of the coal ash bill had the Coal Ash Management Commission housed under the Department of Public Safety. We expect to see changes to both of these parts in a final bill. Senate conferees were appointed yesterday – they are: Senators Berger (R – Guilford, Rockingham), Wade (R – Guilford) and Apodaca (R – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania). House conferees have not yet been officially appointed but Representatives McGrady (R – Henderson), Samuelson (R – Mecklenburg)and Hager (R – Burke, Rutherford) carried the bill in the House so they are very likely be appointed as conferees. The coal ash bill may not come to a final vote until the very end of session (which should be in the next few weeks) because votes on major bills are often held back until the end to encourage negotiation between the chambers.

Opportunity for Action:

As you may recall, the coal ash bill still lacks assurances that groundwater and surface water will be protected from continuing pollution at all sites. Please contact the Senate conferees and ask them to add clear standards to the bill to ensure that any closure method allowed is protective of groundwater near coal ash sites.

Everything old is new again?

  • Last session the House passed H 201, then called “Reinstate 2009 Energy Conservation Codes” to roll back energy efficiency requirements for commercial buildings. But the bill was never brought to a vote in the Senate. This week, the Senate Rules Committee introduced a revised version of H 201 that renames it “Building Reutilization for Economic Development Act” and narrows the impact of the energy efficiency rollbacks but then proposes new exemptions from stormwater rules and the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for some commercial buildings. If passed, the result would be that some commercial buildings would be allowed to be built 30% less efficient and would get exemptions from the NC Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). We understand that the intent of the bill is to help one company redevelop a building, but nonetheless its a statewide bill. Energy use in buildings accounts for 70% of total electricity use. And since buildings have a lifespan of between 50 and 75 years it’s critical that new construction be to efficient standards to reduce our overall energy usage and dependency on dirty energy like coal. H 201 is calendared to be voted on by the Senate on Monday.
  • S 883 “Disapprove/Amend Buffer Rules” would strike a list of environmental rules created to protect water quality that were only recently adopted. The existing rules resulted from a lengthy stakeholder negotiation process in which environmental groups were involved. The new proposed rules were created by a separate stakeholder group that did not include environmental groups. One of many problems we see with this bill includes striking a requirement for those who do mitigation projects to provide funds for long term maintenance. Mitigation projects are meant to make up for the loss of wetlands and habitat to development but if we don’t ensure their long-term success we are not really mitigating our losses. More to follow on this bill. S 883 is on the Senate calendar for Monday evening along with H 201.

And why should we have to choose between education and transit?

H 1224 “Local Sales Tax for Education/Econ Dev Changes” was revised by the Senate this week to add a cap on the total sales tax a county may levy and disallow counties from using local sales tax revenues to fund both public education and public transit (thereby forcing a choice between the two). The Senate changes to this bill received negative attention from a number of groups this week, including Sierra Club. H 1224 was removed from the Senate calendar Thursday and sent to Senate Finance Committee where there will likely be revisions proposed on Monday evening. We created an action alert on this bill for Wake County residents since we know that Wake County is considering a transit tax; but again this is a statewide bill so if this concerns you please contact your Senator.

Thank you for your interest and volunteer advocacy! Be on the lookout for more frequent updates and action alerts as the legislative session comes to a close.  The end of session always brings surprises.

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

NC Sierra Club Footnotes Online – July 2014

North Carolina Chapter Sierra Club

Dear friends,

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Our newsletter has a new look this month.  It’s part of our ongoing effort to make it easier for you to understand what’s going on in North Carolina and for you to take action on issues you care about.

Please enjoy this issue of Footnotes and thanks for all the work that you do to make our state a better place to explore, enjoy, and protect.

Cheers,

Your staff at the North Carolina Sierra Club

 

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Take Action on Coal Ash

Legislators from the NC House and NC Senate will soon start working on the final details of the coal ash bill.  We need you to write to legislators and let them know the final version of the bill must ensure that coal ash will no longer pollute our state’s waterways.

Every coal ash site in North Carolina is leaking. The only way to make sure all of North Carolina’s communities are protected from dangerous coal ash is for you to demand comprehensive action from legislators.

Click here to read more and to take action!

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Speak Up for Clean Water!

Right now, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is accepting public comment on a proposed set of water quality standards meant to keep North Carolina in compliance with the Clean Water Act and adopt EPA standards for metals.

Federal law requires states to review and update water quality standards every three years. North Carolina last did it in 2007. And while DENR has proposed a number of updates for the first time in 7 years, there are still some things missing that North Carolinians deserve.

Click here to read more and to take action today!

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Solar is Rising

Right now, North Carolina has the second most solar capacity in construction in the country. And this isn’t anything new.  For the past few years, our state has been a solar powerhouse, creating jobs and investment all across the state. However, the development that’s creating jobs and investment has been mostly limited to utility scale projects – large farms being clean energy online.

However, the NC Sierra Club is working to protect and expand policies that can make rooftop solar more practical.  Putting power on roofs is how NC can become first in solar. Find out more about our campaign and how you can stay in the loop at FirstinSolar.org.

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Wilderness Spotlight: Middle Prong

This month, we take a look at the Middle Prong Wilderness. This protected area was created by the 1984 Wilderness Act which celebrated its 30th anniversary in June.

Comprised of 7,900 acres in Western North Carolina, Middle Prong was once inhabited by the Cherokee and was settled by pioneers in the late 1700’s.  Find a full description of this wilderness area, including pictures and maps, at the most recent blog post on OurWildNC.org.

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Intern Spotlight

Every summer, the NC Sierra Club is lucky enough to have interns help tackle the tasks related to protecting our air, water, and natural places.  This year, we have two top notch interns helping on everything from legislative issues to wilderness and everything in between.

Please take a moment to learn about the great work being done by Brianna van Stekelenburg and Caroline Spence in their intern spotlight profiles and thank them for all that they do.

Click here to read about our 2014 summer interns.

Upcoming Events and Outings

Note: The deadline to participate in the Wilderness Challenge has been extended to July 31Click here for challenge details and to register!

August 22 – 24Outings Leader Training at Hanging Rock State Park

This training is for outings leaders who have taken Sierra Club OLT101 (basic outdoor leadership training) within the last 4 years.  This training will prepare participants to lead overnight trips away from cars (Sierra Club Level 2 outings).

Space is limited and the registration deadline is Wednesday August 6th.

Please contact Kelly Mieszkalski (kellymieszkalski@yahoo.com, 919.624.2225) or Nancy Card (nostalgicnan@gmail.com or 910.540.3088) with any questions.

Click here to register via Eventbrite!

August 2Tree ID Walk (summer edition) – Clemmons State Forest, Clayton, NC

Join the Capital Group for a summertime walk in the woods and tree identification outing. Hike consists of 0.6 miles on the talking tree trail and 0.8 miles on the talking rock trail. Guests may want to bring your bird or tree guidebook or a bottle of water. This is not a backcountry hike and no special skills or equipment are required. Outing is free and open to the public, limited to the first 12 to sign up at: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/tree-id-walk-tickets-12243363229

August 16Shining Rock Wilderness Day Hike – Near East Fork, NC

This hike is part of the Our Wild North Carolina Celebration!  This is a moderately strenuous 10-mile round trip hike that will cross Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain, and Flower Knob to Shining Rock and be at altitudes above 6,000 ft.  For more information, contact Joel Wooten at (336) 466-1314 before 9:00 pm, or joelhike@yahoo.com.  Wilderness outings are limited to 10 hikers. Click here more information.

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Did you know you can make a monthly gift to the NC Sierra Club? Find out how you can make a sustaining gift by visiting our website, or contacting the Chapter office at 919-833-8467.

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