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.

Want to know the latest? Join us on Facebook or Twitter!

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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Sierra Club NC Chapter Legislative Update 07-11-14

Protect Enviro DemocracyDear Friends,

This week the General Assembly did not move any environmental bills forward that we have been monitoring because House and Senate leaders were busy hashing out the budget in contentious private meetings. That said, the coal ash bill and other bills we are following could move quickly next week as the legislature races to end the short session.

Status of the Coal Ash Bill

The coal ash bill - S 729 “Coal Ash Management Act of 2014” – was on the Senate calendar several days in a row this week, but was finally moved to Monday’s calendar for a vote of concurrence. Senator Apodaca (R – Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania), who is taking the lead on the coal ash bill in the Senate, has said that the Senate will vote not to concur on the bill because changes are needed. Specifically, he noted that he would like changes to:

1) the variance procedure added by the House that would allow the Secretary of DENR to grant an extension to deadlines in the bill;  and

2) the agency location and makeup of the Coal Ash Management Commission.

Procedurally, after the Senate votes to not concur – the coal ash bill will go to conference – which means that House and Senate leaders will appoint legislator conferees who will meet in private to iron out differences and come up with a final bill.

A major environmental concern remaining in regards to the coal ash bill is the lack of clear standards to ensure that all closure methods are protective of groundwater near coal ash sites. All 33 coal ash ponds at 14 coal plants in North Carolina are leaking toxic heavy metals into the groundwater.  Without clear guidelines, this bill could allow coal ash at 10 of these plant sites to stay in place, continuing to pollute our groundwater, lakes, and rivers.

Opportunity for Action:

Please contact Senator Apodaca, who will surely be on the coal ash bill conference committee, and ask him to add clear standards to the bill to ensure that any closure method allowed is protective of groundwater near coal ash sites.

What’s in the coal ash legislation that moves us forward? What is lacking?

Given the complexity of the coal ash bill – you may be interested in a broader picture of what the coal ash bill – S 729 – will do. Certain provisions in the House and Senate versions of the coal ash bill are not in contention and so will very likely be part of the final bill. These include the following provisions sought by the Sierra Club and its coalition partners:

  • Bring coal ash under the state’s current solid waste management laws:
    • The legislation makes wet coal ash subject to North Carolina’s fairly stringent construction, monitoring and siting standards for solid waste.
  • Address future management of wet ash:
    • The legislation requires wet coal ash disposal to be phased out entirely by the end of 2019. The coal ash bill will prohibit construction of new or the expansion of wet coal ash ponds beginning in August 2014. Then, by October 2014 no additional coal ash will be allowed to be disposed of in wet coal ash ponds at retired plants.
    • By the end of 2018 no stormwater may enter the coal ash ponds at retired plants and all active coal ash plants must convert to dry fly ash handling only. By the end of 2019, no stormwater may be discharged into coal ash ponds at active coal plants and active coal plants must convert to dry bottom ash handling only.
  • Set a timeline and fixed date to close out all 33 wet coal ash ponds
    • The legislation sets clear deadlines for closing out all 33 coal ash ponds. Four coal ash plant sites are identified for clean closure (excavation of ash and putting ash into lined storage. The remaining 10 sites would be categorized by the new Coal Ash Management Commission and put into either high, intermediate or low risk category based on a list of factors. High and intermediate categorization would require excavation of ash and putting ash into lined storage. Low risk sites would be allowed to be capped in place. [Note: Although groundwater monitoring and financial assurance would be required, the  closure standards for capping in place as currently in the bill do not adequately protect groundwater.]
  • Adequately regulate structural fill:
    • The legislation requires construction, siting and monitoring standards for large structural fill projects. Also, a one year moratorium on smaller structural fill projects is established while standards are studied by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
  • Close the highest risk sites first:
    • Clean closure, with removal of coal ash, from the four sites listed in the legislation: Dan River – Eden, Riverbend – Charlotte, Sutton – Wilmington and Asheville.  [Note that these sites are all in litigation, and that Duke Energy has already publicly committed to cleaning them up.]
  • Removal of a loophole in 2013 legislation that allows Duke Energy to extend the compliance boundary by acquiring additional property, even if that property is on the other side of a drinking water supply lake.
  • More funding for DENR to regulate coal ash: though not part of the coal ash legislation, both chambers have included funding for 20+ new positions at DENR to implement the requirements in the coal ash bill.

What remains to be addressed or improved in the pending coal ash legislation?

  • Criteria for prioritizing wet coal ash ponds for closure that is tied to groundwater contamination.
  • Setting minimum standards, based on scientific data, for closure. Closure standards should allow alternatives to moving the ash from unlined ponds near water only if those alternatives are demonstrably as effective in protecting water supplies as removing the source of contamination.
  • Standards for using coal ash for structural fill for structural fill projects under 80,000 tons/project of 8,000 tons/acre.
  • A provision that appears to be an attempt to undermine a recent NC Superior Court decision by Judge Paul Ridgeway, that is currently under appeal. The Ridgeway court order requires Duke Energy to immediately remove the source of contamination from coal ash ponds that are polluting groundwater.
  • A politically appointed new commission with broad discretion and little accountability to work with DENR to implement the bill. The new commission can use cost as a reason to reject a proposed closure plan.
  • Open pit mines are included as an option within the definition of structural fill. Large structural fill projects including those in open pit mines (over 8,000 tons/acre or 80,000 tons/project) would have to comply with the standards for large structural fill projects in the bill (standards including liners, groundwater monitoring, etc…). Smaller structural fill (including open pit mine) projects would be subject to a 1 year moratorium during which DENR will study the issue. We do not know what, if any, standards will be developed for smaller structural fill projects including those that are open pit mines.
  • Variance provisions (in the House bill) would allow the Secretary of DENR to extend deadlines for closure of coal ash ponds. The Senate does not support this House change and so this may come out or change during conference.

Thank you for your volunteer lobbying efforts on this important issue!

Best,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org

These North Carolina Coal Ash Numbers Are a Powerful Call to Action

AP story

Thanks to Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch for this excellent article! I’ve taken the liberty to add in some mimes developed by the NC Conservation Network team that help to illustrate the dangers behind these numbers. Please share…

Monday Coal Ash Numbers

156—number of days since a massive coal ash spill commenced at an abandoned Duke Energy power plant near Eden and contaminated the Dan River with toxic coal ash

Approximately 39,000—amount of coal ash (in tons) that spilled into the river (Duke Energy revised estimate – original estimate placed the figure between 50,000 and 82,000 tons)

24 million—amount of wastewater (in gallons) that also spilled into the river (Ibid. – original estimate was 27 million gallons)

13—number of coal ash dams in North Carolina that have been determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pose a “high” (seven) or “significant” (six) hazard if they were to fail (www.southeastcoalash.org) – Failure of intermediate hazard dams is likely to result is significant property and environmental damage; failure of high hazard dams is likely result in loss of life as well

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 (sic) Coal Ash Ponds in North Carolina Pose a Threat to Groundwater” – www.nationalgeographic.com – March 5, 2014)

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19 or more—number of potentially dangerous chemicals commonly found in coal ash – including the heavy metals arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc. (“Coal Ash: Hazardous to Human Health” – Physicians for Social Responsibility – www.psr.org)

As high as 1 in 50—chances you may get cancer as a result of coal ash pollution if you live near an unlined site and get your water from a well (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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15—number of years that competing House and Senate plans would give Duke Energy to “close” all coal ash sites – Duke will be allowed to simply cover those deemed to be a “low risk” with dirt and leave them in place (Senate Bill 729)

10—number of years that would be allowed to close any sites determined (if any) to be “intermediate risks” by a new commission to be created by the legislation (Ibid.)

5—number of years that both plans would give Duke to close four specifically identified “high-risk” sites (and any others so labeled by the commission) and transfer ash into lined landfills (Ibid.)

10 out of 14—number of Duke sites that could end up simply being “capped in place” under Senate Bill 729 as it currently stands after approval by the House last week (Ibid.)

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0—of the 33 pits and 14 sites, the number that environmental experts and advocates have determined are safe to simply leave in place (Southern Environmental Law Center, NC Chapter of the Sierra Club, N.C. Conservation Network, Environment North Carolina, Appalachian Voices, the N.C. League of Conservation Voters and the Catawba, Cape Fear and French Broad Riverkeepers to name a few)

2.6 million—number of people left unprotected who rely on drinking water intakes downstream from ten leaking Duke Energy coal ash sites not required to be cleaned up under the bill (“NC coal ash bill leaves 2.6M unprotected from risks” – Southern Environmental Law Center – June 25, 2014)

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2.7 billion—Duke’s net 2013 profits in dollars (up $900 million over 2012) (Charlotte Observer: “Duke Energy turns profit of nearly $3B” – February 18, 2014)

-3.3—effective percentage of the federal income tax rate paid by Duke from 2008-12 on net profits of more than $9 billion during that period (that’s negative 3.3% - the company actually received a net rebate of $299 million) (“Profiles in corporate tax avoidance: Duke Energy,” NC Policy Watch and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – April 10, 2013)

2-10 billion (or approximately 134 million to 667 million per year over 15 years)—estimated dollar cost of cleaning up Duke’s coal ash sites in North Carolina – depending upon the thoroughness of the clean-up (“Senate gives initial approval to coal ash plan” – WRAL.com, June 24, 2014)

0—amount of the cost of clean-up that both the Senate and House bills mandate be borne by Duke and its shareholders (Senate Bill 729 – www.ncleg.net)

Ratepayers Held by Duke to Pay

0—number of proposed amendments to require Duke to pay the cost of clean-up on which Senate and House members were allowed to vote (the Rules Committee chairmen in both chambers used parliamentary maneuvers to table the proposals before they could be brought to a vote)

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

 

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156number of days since a massive coal ash spill commenced at an abandoned Duke Energy power plant near Eden and contaminated the Dan River with toxic coal ash

Approximately 39,000—amount of coal ash (in tons) that spilled into the river (Duke Energy revised estimate – original estimate placed the figure between 50,000 and 82,000 tons)

24 million—amount of wastewater (in gallons) that also spilled into the river (Ibid. – original estimate was 27 million gallons)

13number of coal ash dams in North Carolina that have been determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pose a “high” (seven) or “significant” (six) hazard if they were to fail (www.southeastcoalash.org) – Failure of intermediate hazard dams is likely to result is significant property and environmental damage; failure of high hazard dams is likely result in loss of life as well

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)

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

19 or more—number of potentially dangerous chemicals commonly found in coal ash – including the heavy metals arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, as well as aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, boron, chlorine, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, thallium, vanadium, and zinc. (“Coal Ash: Hazardous to Human Health” – Physicians for Social Responsibility – www.psr.org)

As high as 1 in 50chances you may get cancer as a result of coal ash pollution if you live near an unlined site and get your water from a well (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

15number of years that competing House and Senate plans would give Duke Energy to “close” all coal ash sites – Duke will be allowed to simply cover those deemed to be a “low risk” with dirt and leave them in place (Senate Bill 729)

10number of years that would be allowed to close any sites determined (if any) to be “intermediate risks” by a new commission to be created by the legislation (Ibid.)

5number of years that both plans would give Duke to close four specifically identified “high-risk” sites (and any others so labeled by the commission) and transfer ash into lined landfills (Ibid.)

10 out of 14number of Duke sites that could end up simply being “capped in place” under Senate Bill 729 as it currently stands after approval by the House last week (Ibid.)

0—of the 33 pits and 14 sites, the number that environmental experts and advocates have determined are safe to simply leave in place (Southern Environmental Law Center, NC Chapter of the Sierra Club, N.C. Conservation Network, Environment North Carolina, Appalachian Voices, the N.C. League of Conservation Voters and the Catawba, Cape Fear and French Broad Riverkeepers to name a few)

2.6 millionnumber of people left unprotected who rely on drinking water intakes downstream from ten leaking Duke Energy coal ash sites not required to be cleaned up under the bill (“NC coal ash bill leaves 2.6M unprotected from risks” – Southern Environmental Law Center – June 25, 2014)

2.7 billionDuke’s net 2013 profits in dollars (up $900 million over 2012) (Charlotte Observer: “Duke Energy turns profit of nearly $3B” – February 18, 2014)

-3.3—effective percentage of the federal income tax rate paid by Duke from 2008-12 on net profits of more than $9 billion during that period (that’s negative 3.3% - the company actually received a net rebate of $299 million) (“Profiles in corporate tax avoidance: Duke Energy,” NC Policy Watch and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy – April 10, 2013)

2-10 billion (or approximately 134 million to 667 million per year over 15 years)estimated dollar cost of cleaning up Duke’s coal ash sites in North Carolina – depending upon the thoroughness of the clean-up (“Senate gives initial approval to coal ash plan” – WRAL.com, June 24, 2014)

0—amount of the cost of clean-up that both the Senate and House bills mandate be borne by Duke and its shareholders (Senate Bill 729 – www.ncleg.net)

0number of proposed amendments to require Duke to pay the cost of clean-up on which Senate and House members were allowed to vote (the Rules Committee chairmen in both chambers used parliamentary maneuvers to table the proposals before they could be brought to a vote)

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

- See more at: http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/07/07/monday-coal-ash-numbers/#sthash.f1HRM9AZ.dpuf

Paddle to Clean Up Buck Coal Ash – June 25th

A new report from the Associated Press finds that carcinogenic chemicals may be leaking from unlined coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station near Salisbury, North Carolina. Incredibly, as of today, the coal ash proposals from both Governor McCrory and the state Senate (Senate Bill 729)1 would allow Duke Energy to leave toxic coal ash in place at 10 of the 14 coal ash sites across North Carolina, including at Buck Steam Station. This is unacceptable!

Tell your state legislators to protect North Carolina communities by moving all of these toxic coal ash ponds away from our waterways!

North Carolina should clean up and move ALL of our leaking, toxic coal ash pits. Polluted coal ash isn’t just a future problem, it’s affecting real North Carolina families right now.

Join in this action to call for coal ash dump clean up across North Carolina!

Yadkin River Paddle to Buck Coal Plant June 25th at 8:30 AM
Join members from a coalition of environmental groups in a fun kayak and canoe event on the Yadkin River on June 25th at 8:30 AM.

This will be a short casual paddle of about 2 hours from the York Hill Access at the headwaters of High Rock Lake to the vicinity of Duke Energy’s Buck Electric Power Plant and coal ash ponds. There, those who choose to can link up their boats for a photo opportunity holding signs and banners promoting clean water and demanding action on coal ash ponds. Then we will explore nearby areas of the river and lake before returning to the launch area.Bring boats, Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Devices, water and snacks. All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver.

This Buck Power Plant event is cosponsored by the Sierra Club, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, and other environmental organizations in the Piedmont Triad Beyond Coal coalition (see Facebook).

Contact Henry Fansler at hbjfansler@windstream.net or Gus Preschle at exploor@triad.rr.com for more information.

As a separate but coincident opportunity, boaters can sign on with the Dean Naujoks, Riverkeeper and paddle the 12 mile trip to the Tamarac Marina (see Yadkinriverkeeper.org for details).

Buck Paddle

Buck Paddle Flyer

Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor: “We drink from the Catawba; we deserve clean water”

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A shout out and thanks to Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor for this excellent Op-ed in the Charlotte Observer!

We drink from the Catawba; we deserve clean water

Wednesday, Jun. 11, 2014

From Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor:

Gov. Pat McCrory recently proposed legislation that would require Duke Energy to move its polluting coal ash to safer storage away from our waterways at some of its power plants, including the Riverbend plant near Charlotte, but not from all of them. This will protect some communities, but Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, Matthews, Mint Hill, Pineville, Charlotte, Gastonia, Belmont, Mt. Holly and all of Mecklenburg and Lincoln Counties will still be at risk. Each of these communities draws drinking water from the Catawba River below the Marshall Steam Plant on Lake Norman.

Just upstream of Mecklenburg County, Duke Energy stores nearly a billion gallons of wet coal ash in an 80-acre unlined pit at the Marshall Steam Plant, directly on the banks of the Catawba River. North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has stated under oath in court filings that one or more of the dikes or berms for the lagoons at the Marshall facility are discharging through numerous unpermitted flows, leaks, and channels into the Catawba River.

Sampling of groundwater near the Marshall plant has found boron at levels 54 percent above state standards, iron at 237 percent above state standards, and manganese at 284 percent above state standards.

These coal ash dumps are always at risk of catastrophic failure, triggered by a flood, a tropical storm, or simply age and neglect. On the Dan River, an old storm-water pipe collapsed on a normal day. Duke Energy dumps its coal ash in outdated, unlined pits next to our rivers and drinking water, held back only by dikes made of soil that leak, and has had multiple dike breaks and failures at its coal ash lagoons across North Carolina in addition to the colossal spill on the Dan River this year. The EPA rates the dams at the Marshall plant as high hazard, meaning that a dam failure is likely to cause a loss of human life and devastating impacts to Lake Norman and the Catawba River.

Mecklenburg, Lincoln and Gaston County communities are all at risk of a Dan River catastrophe, which would have devastating consequences.

There is a simple solution. Duke can move this coal ash away from the Catawba River to safe, dry storage in a lined landfill, or recycle it to make concrete or other products. That is what the other two utilities in the Carolinas are doing, just across the border in South Carolina, without raising customer rates. Duke should take at least this step to protect our rivers and our drinking water.

Yet, Duke Energy has only indicated a willingness to remove coal ash from four of its 14 plants, including its Riverbend plant. The utility has refused to commit to moving its coal ash away from the Catawba River-Marshall site. Neither our state environmental agency nor McCrory has required Duke to do it. Our citizens deserve better. We must not allow Duke and the Governor to pick winners and losers. We all deserve clean water.

Ask Duke Energy and Gov. McCrory: Why won’t you do what is right for the entire Catawba River? And ask your legislator to protect your river and your drinking water if Duke Energy and the governor won’t do so. Tell them that our communities matter.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/06/11/4970255/we-drink-from-the-catawba-we-deserve.html

Sierra Club NC Chapter – Special Legislative Update – Some Good Environmental News

Protect Enviro DemocracyDear Friends,

A mid-week legislative update is in order due to some good news on the House version of the budget. You may have heard that the Senate budget had some bad environmental provisions. We got most of our requests for changes to environmental aspects of the Senate budget (S 744) – in the revised House version, released today, thanks to Rep. Tom Murry from Cary, Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural & Economic Resources.  Representative Murry’s committee removed Senate proposals to put taxpayer funds towards fracking, and at the same time, increased funding for coal ash cleanup and stormwater pollution controls for our most polluted lakes (amongst other changes). The House and the Senate will need to agree on a final budget in the end, so we don’t know that all the improvements will be kept, but its great to see the House going in a positive direction.

Action Recommended:

Please thank Rep. Tom Murry (R – Wake) for his leadership on improving the budget on environmental issues by calling or sending an email, especially if he is your representative. Additionally, please ask your Senator to keep the House budget changes to environmental sections.

Fracking:

The Senate budget contained a provision that would have had taxpayers subsidizing the oil and gas industry by putting $100,000 towards marketing North Carolina’s small shale gas resource to an industry that has shown no interest so far. And $50,000 for an analysis of the chemical composition of our gas; and $973,000 for a no-bid contract – exempt from public contracting laws for test wells and core sample analysis in four parts of the state: the Dan, Davie, Cumberland-Marlboro, and southern Deep basins (click link to see map). Overall this idea seems to be an unnecessary gift to the oil and gas industry that taxpayers should not be shouldering. It was removed in the House version of the budget.

Water Quality:

A special provision in the House budget would add $1,000,000 to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. If passed, the money would be used for the treatment of pollution before it enters the rivers and streams that are drinking water sources. Jordan Lake and Falls Lake are subject to Nutrient Management Strategies, so these funds may help the ongoing pollution problems in these two local water bodies.

Coal Ash:

The House increased funds for DENR salaries overall and increased funds for coal ash positions and operating funds by $500,000. Further, the House budget untied coal ash funding for DENR from the passage of S 729, the Governor’s Coal Ash Action Plan, so that even if the Senate’s bill were not to pass, DENR would still get funding to address North Carolina’s coal ash problem.

There were other improvements to certain provisions affecting agriculture, wells and coastal jetties. Overall, the House version of the budget is much improved from the Senate’s in terms of environmental issues.

Thank you,

Cassie Gavin, Director of Government Relations

Sierra Club – NC Chapter

cassie.gavin@sierraclub.org