For immediate release
Contact: Hope Taylor, Executive Director, Clean Water for NC
On May 1st, Clean Water for North Carolina, a statewide environmental justice group that focuses on community empowerment, filed a constitutional challenge to the NC Mining and Energy Commission’s right to overturn local government ordinances by preemption. Such ordinances are created by local governments to protect their communities from the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Residents of three counties (Chatham, Anson and Granville) that lie over possible gas-containing shale formations in the Deep River Basin joined the suit, including two elected local government officials who advocated strongly for their protective ordinance.
The “complaint for declaratory judgment,” was filed for the plaintiffs by Attorneys Ryke Longest, Director, and Shannon Arata of the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and names the Mining and Energy Commission and the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources as defendants. The plaintiffs argue that the Commission should not have been granted the authority to rule on ordinances by the General Assembly, as it violates the “separation of powers” of the executive and judicial branches of state government, and is the result of action by the legislature, a third government branch.
“Local governments are the first line of defense to protect our citizens and resources from potential harms of any kind, and especially an industry that could provide only a few temporary jobs, and profits only to a few landowners and contractors,” says Darryl Moss, currently serving as Mayor of Creedmoor (Granville County), whose city government passed an ordinance in 2011. “We’re particularly concerned about our limited and vulnerable water supply, which would be threatened by this water-hogging industry which has developed no safe method of storing or treating huge volumes of waste.”
Hope Taylor, Executive Director of Clean Water for NC, points out, “The courts, and not the Mining and Energy Commission, which is stacked with pro-industry legislative appointees, should rule on ordinances enacted by local governments. Last year, tens of thousands of people, including many CWFNC members, commented at hearings or in writing to say the Oil and Gas rules do not come close to protecting their communities. And yet we’ve been told to accept drilling and fracking 650 feet from our homes, drinking water wells and schools, and 200 feet from our streams. If local governments decide democratically to enact protections that their citizens need, the MEC shouldn’t be able to toss them out.” More…
ACTION ALERT! The NC House of Representatives is considering two changes to state law that would have a big impact on landowner rights and protection from contamination. Please consider calling or emailing your state Representative today and weighing in.
Oppose House Bill 639: Don’t Let Polluters off the Hook
A very bad bill, HB 639 would let many polluters off the hook AGAIN! Neighboring landowners will be even LESS protected from spread of contaminants, if the state expands its “risk-based remediation program.”
Under HB 639, polluters responsible for past and future contaminated sites could rely on land-use restrictions rather than full cleanup of contamination and prevention of its spread to neighboring properties. H639 would allow contamination to remain on neighbors’ property with the landowner’s consent! The bill would also remove the financial incentive for businesses not to pollute in the first place, as risk-based cleanups could cost even less than spill prevention, and it privatizes cleanups without funding NC DENR to provide adequate oversight. Overall, H639 shifts responsibility for contaminated sites from the polluter to neighbors, future generations, and taxpayers.
Support House Bill 586: Ban Forced Pooling
The 1945 Oil and Gas Law makes “forced pooling” of landowners who don’t wish to lease their land for gas extraction legal in NC, but the law does not say when or how forced pooling can happen! So landowners can’t be sure that their property rights will be protected at all. The NC House of Representatives could begin debating House Bill 586 this week in the House Environment Committee, but only if we urge them to do so! The bill would ban forced pooling in North Carolina and take additional steps to protect landowners from unwanted activity on their property, now that the legislature has lifted the moratorium on fracking permits.
Forced pooling affects property rights. Photo credit: Martha Girolami
Please contact your Representative by Wednesday noon to ask them to support House Bill 586! You can also ask your own County Commission Chairman to contact Representatives to ask for their support. Remember: this is not a bill to prevent fracking
. Instead, when you speak with your Representative, emphasize the importance of this bill to protect landowner rights.
The NC Division of Water Resources is accepting public comments through May 5 on proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for Duke Energy’s Riverbend, Allen, and Marshall coal plants!
Locations of the three coal facilities and their discharges along the Catawba River.
Under the Clean Water Act, any facility discharging to a river or stream must have a NPDES permit, and these permits have to be renewed every five years. These are the first NPDES permits for coal-fired power plants in NC to be renewed since the Dan River disaster, so they could set a precedent for other facilities. Yet the draft permits are entirely inadequate, allowing all three facilities to continue leaching toxins into surface and groundwater from coal ash ponds!
The Division acknowledges that seepages requiring long-term action is happening at the coal ash ponds, but they are proposing not to limit these toxic seepages, despite the fact that they are uncontrolled releases, setting a terrible precedent for other Duke coal plants in the state!
The Riverbend plant ceased operations in 2013, but coal ash is still stored there in an impoundment. Riverbend is one of the five plants charged in February with Clean Water Act violations and $102 million in fines for Duke. The new permit adds 12 groundwater seeps to the allowed discharges and will only require Duke to self-monitor the leaks and self-report them to DENR. Riverbend’s wastewater discharge is located just three miles upstream from the main Charlotte water supply intake.
Even the treated discharges coming out of pipes at the Marshall and Allen plants into the Catawba River’s lakes do not have strict enough monitoring or limits for pollutants like arsenic and mercury, and continue to allow thermal “variances” for hot discharges that exceed national temperature standards.
- Click here for the draft NPDES wastewater permits, factsheets and related documents for these three coal plants.
- Click here for helpful materials and additional context from the Catawba Riverkeeper.
Written comments will be accepted until May 5, and can be mailed to: NCDENR-Division of Water Resources, Wastewater Permitting Section, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1617, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Wastewater Permit Comments for Coal Ash Ponds.”
This March, Clean Water for NC’s Board of Directors adopted a resolution recognizing the need to protect ALL communities from toxic coal ash. We invite you to read the principles we support, including extensive public input from affected communities, no preemption of local protections, Duke Energy retaining full liability for toxic ash, and minimizing distance that coal ash travels from current coal ash ponds to final safe storage. Click here to read the resolution!
Despite public outrage and pressure to fix Duke Energy’s leaky coal ash ponds following the massive spill of coal ash into the Dan River in February 2014, there is still no firm process for cleanup, and new communities may soon be threatened by the toxic mess.
Lee and Chatham Counties could soon be ground zero, not just for fracking, but coal ash disposal too!
Duke Energy now plans to move 20 million tons of ash from its Sutton and Riverbend plants hundreds of miles to dump it in old clay mine pits near Moncure and Sanford, where communities and county officials have expressed strong opposition to the current proposal. Come to public hearings (click here for info
) on April 13 and 16 where you can voice your concerns on the proposal). Duke is contracting with Charah Inc., a Kentucky based waste management company, for the Chatham and Lee County clay mine sites, evading future liability for the ash. All liners for landfills eventually fail, so nearby residents worry about heavy metals leaching into groundwater.
Our state continues to struggle over the issue of disposal of coal ash in light of an increasingly complex web of weak state laws and federal regulations, and in the face of Duke Energy’s blatant disregard for environmental protection, challenging the $25.1 million Clean Water Act fine by NCDENR. It is critical for communities and local governments to have a voice at every step in the process to ensure that coal ash currently stored in leaky pits does not simply end up in leaky storage hundreds of miles away, becoming another community’s toxic problem.
Read our coal ash resolution here.