You might remember that back in early February a Duke Energy coal ash containment pond ruptured, spilling tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River, near Eden (Ha!), NC. Coal ash is full of yummy stuff like arsenic, selenium, and cadmium, and Duke Energy has 33 ash ponds scattered around the state.
In response to the devastating spill and contaminated groundwater at other Duke Energy sites, environmental groups asked the state's Environmental Management Commission to interpret state environmental rules in such a way as to order "immediate action to eliminate" contamination from ash ponds that violate state standards. The EMC, however, rejected this request, arguing that Duke's efforts at clean up could take "a reasonable amount of time to accomplish."
Now, obviously what seems a reasonable amount of time to you or me, or the fish that live in the Dan, or the people who get their drinking water from the river, might not match up with what the good folks at Duke Energy feel is a reasonable amount of time to clean up their mess. So, in early March, Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway cleared up the confusion, overruling the EMC decision and ordering Duke Energy to take immediate action to stop groundwater contamination from coal ash.
Fast forward to this week when the Environmental Management Commission, in conjunction with their employers, uh, I mean good friends, Duke Energy, appealed Judge Ridgeway's ruling.
You may be wondering why on earth would a commission tasked with protecting the environmental health of the State of North Carolina seemingly go out of its way to side with polluters? Well, you'd have to ask Governor Pat McCrory, Duke Energy employee for 28 years and political pet of Art Pope (our own home-grown Koch Brother). He and the Republican-dominated General Assembly neutered both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the EMC upon taking control of the levers of state power.
And the results are a surprise to absolutely nobody:
Disgusting. The whole sordid mess is disgusting.