* 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.

* 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.

* The Coal Hard Facts from The Queen of Coal – Dec 12th Sierra Club Meeting

The Queen of Coal is back! Rhiannon Fionn Bowman has just returned from six months of research, all across the U.S., on the impact of coal and coal ash for her new book. We’re delighted that she’ll share some of her findings, her photos, and her stories of the impact of toxic coal ash from all around the country.

With the recent discovery by the Catawba Riverkeeper that there are at least 4 illegal seeps from the Riverbend coal ash pond discharging toxins into our drinking water supply, this will be a very timely presentation. If you care about our rivers and streams, our drinking water, and our local environment this is a program that you can’t afford to miss. We must move NC Beyond Coal and we’ll learn what we can do about it!

Rhiannon Fionn Bowman

Many of you have followed award winning writer Rhiannon Fionn Bowman as she covered ReVenture (ReVenture Under Review – Charlotte Magazine, Feb 2011), Toxic Coal Ash (Is coal ash poisoning Charlotte-area drinking water? – Creative Loafing, Sept 2010), the Charlotte Occupy Movement, Community Gardens, and much, much more. Be sure to check out her new website Coal Ash Chronicles.

Our Wednesday, December 12th, meeting starts off at 6:30 PM for snacks, refreshments and a chance to meet and socialize with other Sierra Club members and friends. The business meeting and program will begin at 7:00 PM. Non-members and potential new members are very welcome!

Central Piedmont Sierra Club meetings are held in the Mahlon Adams Pavilion at Freedom Park, 2435 Cumberland Avenue, Charlotte, NC, 28203. Cumberland Avenue is off of the 1500 block of East Boulevard.

The program is free and open to the public and you do not have to be a member to attend. Free parking is available.

Note: Due to the holidays, this meeting will take the place of our regularly scheduled 4th Wednesday meeting and there will be no meeting on Dec 26th.

P.S. Bring a friend or two; you’ll be glad you did! See you there…


* 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

* Why We Should All Love Mountain Island Lake – Must See!

This video will send “coal chills” up and down your spine. The first part is great but don’t miss sections 4:00 through 9:00.

Thank you “We Love Mountain Island Lake”!

Community Meeting

Panel discussion on water quality in Mountain Island Lake

Rusty Rozzelle, Charlotte Mecklenburg Water Quality Manager

Sam Perkins, Director of Technical Programs, Catawba Riverkeeper 

Thursday, October 18th


Cook’s Memorial Presbyterian Church

Fellowship Hall

3413 Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road

Charlotte, NC 28216

Unfortunately, this is not just a Mountain Island Lake/Riverbend Coal Fired Incinerator issue! This is a huge NC issue!

Number of Coal Ash Ponds:  37 ponds at 14 plants.

Pond Ratings:  29 ponds in NC have been rated “high hazard”, and 2 have been rated “intermediate hazard.” A high hazard rating means that pond failure will probably cause a loss of human life in addition to economic loss, environmental damage and damage to infrastructure An intermediate hazard rating indicates that a failure at the pond can cause economic loss, environmental damage, or damage to infrastructure.

Age of Ponds: No NC coal ash pond has a composite liner, and only 4 have any liner at all.  Only 6 of the 37 ponds have leachate collection systems to capture chemicals before they reach groundwater.  17 ponds are over 40 years old, and 10 are over 30 years old.

Documented Damage at Coal Ash Disposal Sites:  There are 13 documented cases of water contamination.

Deficiencies in North Carolina Coal Ash Regulations: Ash ponds constructed before 1994 (at least 21 of North Carolina’s 37 ash ponds) are not required to have caps, liners, or conduct groundwater monitoring. Until 2009, ash pond dams were also exempted from any dam safety inspection under the North Carolina Dam Safety Act of 1967 until the TVA coal ash disaster in Kingston, TN prompted the NC legislature to revise the statue in 2009 with Senate Bill 1004.25 Monitoring at coal ash landfills is discretionary, not mandatory, and landfills are not required to conduct on site groundwater monitoring after closure.

Learn more about the issues at Mountain Island Lake (click below)

* Global FrackDown – Saturday, 9/22/12, 3:00 PM

Would you stand for facking in Mecklenburg County? We need to keep NC Frack Free. Come out this Saturday and make a difference!

From South Africa, to the Netherlands, Argentina, and the US, people from five continents will be participating in a global day of action calling for a ban on oil and gas fracking. Earlier this year, the people of North Carolina spoke out and said we do NOT want fracking in North Carolina! Unfortunately, due to the political shenanigans by some of our legislators, fracking is now legal in North Carolina. We have two years before the legislature decides whether to grant drilling permits and with your help we will be working very hard to make sure those permits are NEVER granted!

Help send the message to Speaker Thom Tillis that we want to keep fracking out of North Carolina by being part of a human sign that we will capture by photograph and deliver to his office. We will meet at Midway Park in downtown Charlotte next to the Trader Joes to take a group photo with poster-sized letters of the phrase “KEEP NC FRACK FREE.” After the photo we will move one mile to the Dowd Branch of the YMCA to watch the 20-minute film by local filmmaker Todd Tinkham, “Message from the Marcellus.” Discussion about the current status of fracking in NC as well as more information about how to get involved in the campaign will follow. Then join us for the final leg of our action to drop off the photo for Speaker Tillis. Help make this event powerful by joining us and making sure Speaker Tillis sees your message.

3:00pm Gather at Midtown Park in downtown Charlotte next to the Trader Joes for human sign
3:30pm Film Screening of “Message from Marcellus” at the Dowd Branch of the YMCA at 400 East Morehead Street, Charlotte NC 28202
4:30pm Caravan to deliver photo

Event Location

Midtown Park next to Trader Joes
1133 Metropolitan Ave
Charlotte, NC 28204