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Thursday, February 13, 2014

The shadow of things to come: US investigates NC environment agency after coal-ash spill

“Power, wrongly used, defeats the oppressor as well as the oppressed.” 

                                                                                          ~Wally Lamb

As I was reviewing the last Mining and Energy Commission audios for a new post, this article landed in my inbox: 
 — Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into North Carolina's environmental agency following a massive coal ash spill on the Dan River. The U.S. Attorney's Office issued a grand jury subpoena requesting records from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. They include emails, memos and reports from 2010 through the Feb. 2 spill. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the subpoena on Thursday. The spill at a Duke Energy plant in Eden spewed enough toxic ash into the river to fill 72 Olympic-sized pools. It was the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.The order commands the state environmental agency's chief lawyer to appear next month before the grand jury in Raleigh. Agency spokesman Drew Elliot says the state will cooperate with the federal investigators.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Attendees of the Mining and Energy Commission meetings (including myself)  have been raising the issue of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources' (DENR) political will to enforce the law.This is not unique to this new incarnation, but the expanded exemption of hundreds of DENR employees last summer, the changes in public record policy and the incessant pressure on DENR staff to perform (behave), are disturbing, to say the least. 
Read more here:

The Oil and Gas industry has already been meddling with our regulatory and political process. With  complicit or at least compliant DENR leadership, problems in affected communities will be trivialized or downright ignored. How realistic is it to think that the most powerful industry in the world can be controlled? You have a better chance of finding Bigfoot.

Read more here:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hate to say I told you so, "Fracking Commission Seeks To Cut Water Contamination Liability For Drilling Companies"


I apologize for my extended family's behavior. I truly do.You can dress 'em up, but you can't take them anywhere!  Please see WUNC report from Tuesday's meeting of the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy here: Fracking Commission Seeks To Cut Water Contamination Liability For Driiling Companies.

I was not shocked, or surprised; after all I attend most, if not all Mining and Energy Commission meetings and reunions and knew this was coming. From a June 2013 blog post (you can find the entire post here: Things that make you go hmmmmm....: Part II )

"Keywords: Excessive. Red flag. Accelerating. Industry. Industry. Industry.Oh-and Industry.

In 2012, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation (S820) that legalized fracking in North Carolina. That legislation directs the operator to test all water supplies within 5000 feet of a wellhead.

Session Law 2012-143, SB820 reads:

"Pre-Drilling Testing of Water Supplies. – Any lease of oil or gas rights or any other conveyance of any kind separating rights to oil or gas from the freehold estate of surface property shall include a clause that requires the oil or gas developer or operator to conduct a test of all water supplies within 5,000 feet from a wellhead that is part of the oil or gas developer's or operator's activities at least 30 days prior to initial drilling activities and at least two follow-up tests within a 24-month period after production has commenced."

At the June 7 meeting of the North Carolina Mining and Energy meeting there was much discussion on what should be included in the required baseline water testing. Some Commissioners expressed care and concern that the comprehensive testing could be "onerous" for Industry (translate expensive). Some of the remarks:

George Howard (GH): "[We might have to] turn another knob, either a shorter reach, or reduce [the] constituents tested for." Howard then mentioned that testing requirements which were too comprehensive would be a "red flag to industry."

Charles Holbrook (CH): "Some of the rules we are developing are excessive compared to other states." Holbrook remarked that the MEC should be vetting the draft rules with industry, and that there should be more formal outreach.

Dr. Ken Taylor (KT): "The Legislature said 5000 feet, the Legislature said ALL [emphasis mine]. The legislation (S820) set it in stone."

CH: "Laws can be changed."

Chairman Jim Womack remarked later that the MEC may have to go to the General Assembly with recommendations, to get needed statutory authority, or other issues."

You know the old adage, "you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family." 

Another picnic ahead  on February 12, 2014....