Several environmental watchdog groups will host a forum and discussion Thursday at the New Bern-Craven County Public Library on the topic, “Coal Ash Ponds on Our Rivers.”
Every year coal-burning power plants generate not only electricity, but a staggering amount of leftover coal ash that contains heavy metals unhealthy to humans. Yet due in part to intense industry lobbying, there are no federal regulations on its disposal. It’s left to the states to oversee some of the most powerful utility companies in the country.
The 16 people who attended watched a few short films about coal-related pollution. That was followed by a discussion led by organizer Nick Wood of NC Warn, a group that advocates for climate protection through the use of clean energy, and Christine Ellis of the Winyah Rivers Foundation.
It’s the headline that has environmentalists and folks who live along the Dan River so fired up: “Duke Energy Completes Cleanup Work Along the Dan River.” In Rockingham County, they just don’t believe that, or they don’t understand it. “If you get out and go three inches deep in the sand, you’re in coal ash,” said Ben Adkins.
The NC House has just passed a “Thom Tillis-Duke Energy Burn the Public” coal ash bill. The bill leaves North Carolinians at the mercy of two regulators — DENR and the Utilities Commission — that have sorry track records of backroom dealing with Duke Energy on issues involving safety and electric rate fairness. There will be very little clean-up, but the public will likely pay billions as Duke turns coal ash failure into a profit center.
Gov. Pat McCrory, himself a long-time employee of Duke until his retirement, came up with a plan for regulation and cleanup that was underwhelming.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has become the latest Duke Energy critic to urge state lawmakers to spare the public from paying billions of dollars Duke would incur if the legislature forces the power company to fix leaky coal ash lagoons.
A new poll shows that, overwhelmingly across the political spectrum, North Carolina voters say that Duke Energy shareholders – not customers – should pay to clean up all of the utility’s 33 toxic coal ash dumps, and that those whose negligence caused the disastrous Dan River ash spill deserve to be penalized.
Duke Energy’s lobbyists have persuaded North Carolina senate leaders to propose a Burn-the-Public bill that would provide minimal clean-up of the utility’s 33 leaking coal ash dumps, and maximal abuse of electricity customers and those physically impacted by toxic coal ash.
Disposing of a production byproduct is a business expense, and its cost should be borne by the company and its shareholders. The bill requires Duke to pay for its cleanup of the Dan and any future spills, but ratepayers could be on the hook for the much bigger costs of moving the ash.
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