I asked the question last week about how these recent river pollutions reflect on the “environment be damned” attitude that you find in much of the South East. I mean really everyone in the world knows that America is one of the great violators of the environment worldwide. But hell, it is not like the other major countries care. Russia and China are nothing but open sores on the Earths skin and they have been at it longer than we have. Still, when you have the interface between a major polluter and local government like North Carolina then bad things are bound to happen.
Last year, North Carolina’s top environmental regulators thwarted three separate Clean Water Act lawsuits aimed at forcing Duke Energy, the largest electricity company in the country, to clean up its toxic coal ash pits in the state. That June, the state went even further, saying it would handle environmental enforcement at every one of Duke’s 31 coal ash storage ponds in the state — an act that protected the company from further federal lawsuits. Last week, one of those coal ash storage ponds ruptured, belching more than 80,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
Now, environmental groups and former regulators are charging that North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke for 30 years, has created an atmosphere where the penalties for polluting the environment are low.
The Associated Press reports that McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources blocked three federal Clean Water Act suits in 2013 by stepping in with its own enforcement authority “at the last minute.” This protected Duke from the kinds of stiff fines and penalties that can result from federal lawsuits. Instead, state regulators arranged settlements that carried miniscule financial penalties and did not require Duke to change how it stores the toxic byproducts of its coal-fired power plants. After blocking the first three suits, which were brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the state filed notices saying that it would handle environmental enforcement at every one of Duke’s remaining North Carolina coal ash storage sites, protecting the company from Clean Water Act lawsuits linked to its coal waste once and for all.
Go there and read. More next week.