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 email@example.com 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.
Eight American Indian tribes inhabit North Carolina; the Lumbee, Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation, HaliwaSaponi, Coharie, Waccamaw-Siouan, Occaneechi, Meherrin and Sappony. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Fracking are two major impending environmental concerns for those communities. American Indians make up 1.2% of the total North Carolina population which creates a lack of representation when dealing with these concerns. Low income communities are usually targeted by large entities such as Duke Energy, and since the majority of these tribes are located in rural counties, that makes them a prime target.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation is the only federally recognized tribe; that means that they have their own reservation and are considered their own sovereign nation. They can also decide what businesses are allowed to operate on their lands.
The following are environmental injustices impacting each tribal affiliation:
Image adapted from the NC Commission of Indian Affairs
- Coharie: Fracking, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, large hog operations in Sampson County.
- Eastern Band Cherokee: Possibility for Fracking.
- Haliwa- Saponi: Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
- Lumbee: Fracking, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, Coal Ash, river contamination in Red Springs.
- Meherrin: Enviva wood pellet industry and deforestation.
- Occaneechi-Saponi: Petroleum contamination in private wells.
- Waccamaw-Siouan: Possibility for Fracking.
Ericka Faircloth is Clean Water for NC’s new Water & Energy Justice Organizer. Ericka will be attending the conference of the United Tribes of North Carolina this week. The United Tribes of North Carolina is a nonprofit corporation established in 1982 to provide greater coordination and unity among the Indian tribes and organizations of the state, to promote educational, economic, religious, charitable and cultural activities for Indian people, and to increase and to increase economic prosperity for Indians of North Carolina. Click here for the conference agenda.