Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SPECIAL REPORT - Debunking Gov. McCrory's misleading coal ash claims

SPECIAL REPORT - Debunking Gov. McCrory's misleading coal ash claims

By Sue Sturgis

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) gave an interview to WUNC Capitol Bureau Chief Jessica Jones last week in which he discussed coal ash, a topic high on the legislative agenda in the wake of Duke Energy's February spill into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina.

This week the Republican-controlled state Senate approved a bill similar to one proposed by McCrory that requires Duke to close all of its coal ash pits in the state within 15 years. However, it allows most of the pits to be simply covered and left in place, leaving groundwater at risk. The Senate leadership killed without a vote amendments to the bill that would have blocked the company from charging its customers for the cost of cleanup and required liners for any pits leaking toxins into groundwater. Debate now moves to the Republican-controlled House, where environmental advocates hope to strengthen the measure.

In the course of last week's interview, McCrory made some claims about the coal ash policy debate that are misleading, and Jones did not call him on them. Here's what McCrory said in response to her question about his 28-year history of working for Duke Energy and how it might affect his approach to coal ash policy:
I think a lot of North Carolina did not know much about coal ash. In fact, no one had been talking about coal ash for the last 50 to 60 years, including environmental groups, up until the spill in Tennessee two [sic] years ago. So previous administrations, the current attorney general and previous attorney generals -- there was no discussion of coal ash whatsoever until my first three months in office, when we fined Duke Power for some leaks. It wasn't a coal ash leak, it was liquid leaks coming out of coal ash ponds. So we were the first administration to ever take legal action against Duke Energy Co., which did happen to be my previous employer, but it had absolutely no impact on me hesitating to take action.
To clarify, the Tennessee spill McCrory is referring to at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston plant happened in December 2008, more than five years ago. He continued:
I'm the only governor that ever took action against Duke Power Company. I didn't see the protests against my predecessor, so I think there's some partisanship involved in this, and some pure politics involved in this, with all due respect, because I don't remember the protests before I came into office. And believe me, the problems that we're seeing today did exist in the past. They were just pretended that they weren't there. Out of sight, out of mind. And that was also even true of the environmental groups [who] weren't talking about them.
Let's examine McCrory's questionable claims one by one:

1. Environmental groups didn't talk about coal ash until the Tennessee disaster? FALSE.

In 1980, Congress passed the Bevill Amendment, named for former Rep. Tom Bevill of Alabama, that exempted coal ash from laws governing disposal of hazardous waste. Environmental groups pushed for years to overturn the law, with the effort picking up steam in 2000 when environmental groups pushed to document cases of contamination caused by the leaching of ash from impoundments and landfills. That year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drafted a proposal for regulating coal ash as hazardous waste, but it ran into a roadblock in President Clinton's Office of Management and Budget, which came under intense lobbying from the utility industry. In the end, the EPA backed away from regulating coal ash as hazardous waste, leaving its oversight up to the states.

But environmental groups didn't give up. … TO CONTINUE READING CLICK :.