July 15 – NC DOT Public Meeting on Char-Meck Area Transportation Projects

Want to have a voice in new area NC DOT transportation projects? Attend the Tuesday, July 15th, public meeting in Salisbury.

Share Your Thoughts on Point Distribution for Local Projects

Citizens are encouraged to help North Carolina take the next step forward to implement the Strategic Transportation Investments law.

Signed into law last summer, STI allows NCDOT to use its existing revenues to fund more projects that improve the state’s infrastructure, which will help create jobs and boost the economy.

The law directs each of the department’s 14 Transportation Divisions to assign points to local projects considered important to their area.

NCDOT wants to know what you think about:

  • The method your local division developed to determine how to assign these points
  • The number of points your local division plans to allot to different types of projects, including highway, aviation, bicycle and pedestrian, ferry, public transportation and rail

These points, when combined with a data-driven score, are used in determining the final score for each project on the Regional and Division levels. Projects on the Statewide level are scored using data only.

The divisions will hold public comment meetings in June and July where citizens can stop in, ask questions and share their thoughts about the point distribution process. Each division’s initial meeting will kick off a 30-day public comment period.

Division 10 Public Meeting

Date: Tuesday, July 15

Time: 4-7 p.m.

Location:
Metrolina Regional Transportation Management Center
2327 Tipton Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28213

Public comment period:
July 15 – August 14

Division 10 Methodology

Contact: Stuart Basham

Postal address:
716 W. Main St.
Albemarle, NC 28001

General questions:
(704) 983-4400

STI Comment Card

 

Stop Fracking in the North Carolina Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests

I got this message from the Forest Service about plans for fracking in our North Carolina national forests. When I get this sort of message it makes me even more concerned and calls out to tell the Forest Service why fracking our national forests is a really, really bad idea.

Please join me and send a comment about the “Revision of Land Management Plan for the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests’ and tell them why you believe that fracking our national forests is a really, really bad idea.Click below to take action.

Thanks!

Comments may be sent via email to: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=43545 or via facsimile to 828-257-4263. Send or deliver written comments to: National Forests in North Carolina, Attention: Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision Team, 160A Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC 28801.

National Forests in North Carolina
160A Zillicoa St.

Asheville, N.C. 28801 

News Alert

Media Contact: Stevin Westcott, 828-257-4215

Hydraulic Fracturing and Plan Revision

 

Some stakeholders have raised concerns about hydraulic fracturing and how it fits into revision of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests management plan.

It’s important for concerned citizens to know that revision of the management plan focuses on management practices, not on specific budgets or allocations of budgets.

The potential for oil and gas exploration will be identified in the plan revision process in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management.

As described in the Notice of Intent To Revise The Land And Resource Management Plan (NOI)…

“No decision regarding oil and gas leasing availability will be made in the revised Forest Plan, though standards will be brought forward or developed that would serve as mitigations should an availability decision be necessary in the future.”

Click here to read more.

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

Sign Up Now for “Explore Our Wild NC Challenge”!

Sign up today for the “Explore Our Wild NC Challenge”! North Carolina has some great Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas. Why not plan to visit and experience all these great sites in the coming year? Check out the Sierra Club Our Wild NC website for information about all of these beautiful NC treasures.

Explore Our Wild NC Flyer July 2014Explore Our Wild North Carolina Flyer July 31

Sign up today for the “Explore Our Wild NC Challenge”! The sign up period ends July 31st.

 

Stop the Invasive Invasion at Evergreen Nature Preserve – July 12th

Stop the Invasive Invasion at Evergreen Nature Preserve – July 12th

Preserve Our Preserves Service Outing

Saturday, July 12, 2014

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Winterfield Elementary School

3100 Winterfield Pl, Charlotte, NC

For the last 2 years, The Central Piedmont Group of the Sierra Club has been engaged in invasive species removal  at Ribbon Walk Nature Preserve, and we have done such an outstanding job  the Parks and Recreation Department has asked us to do the same for Evergreen Nature Preserve. Invasive species, also called “introduced species”,” non-native” or “non-indigenous” are plants that adversely affect the habitats or bioregions they invade.  The invasive species dominate the region and crowd out native species which had previously provided habitat and food for birds and other wildlife.  There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from clearing a section of forest of invasive vines and seeing the natural open landscape restored.  We would love to have you join us at Evergreen to pitch in and restore this little slice of nature right in the heart of East Charlotte.

What to bring: Wear sturdy shoes for work and walking. Bring a water bottle and a snack if you would like to nibble while you work. Work gloves recommended. Tools are provided but you are welcome to bring your own loppers, trowels, knives, etc.

Liability Waiver: All participants on Sierra Club outings are required to sign a standard liability waiver. If you would like to read the liability waiver before you choose to participate in an outing, download a copy at NC Sierra Club Sign In Waiver

For questions or more information. contact Outings Chair David Underwood at 704-675-2390 davidmunderwood@mail.com

https://charlottesierraclub.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/evergreen-trail-map.jpg

 

And for you Kudzu Killers that want to learn more about identifying invasive plants, here’s a resource recommended by Mary Lou Buck!

Mistaken IdentityMistaken_Identity_Final

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)

coalash6-19

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

 

Coal Ash People 1

Coal Ash People 2

 

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