Sunday, December 7, 2014

No coal ash in our community

Truck transporting coal ash.  


We here in North Carolina, and specifically in Chatham and Lee counties, are being subjected to Duke Energy’s plan to dump millions of tons of coal ash waste in our communities, specifically in Brickhaven, near Moncure in Southeast Chatham and along Colon Road in northern Lee County.  We have organized and we plan to rouse public opinion against Duke Energy, our giant electric power company, the only one now in North Carolina, although they also have plants and coal ash problems in South Carolina and Florida.  

Our state legislature passed a coal ash clean-up law recently which allows Duke Energy to bypass any permissions from local municipalities, towns or counties.  They only have to obtain permits from our Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which under this present Republican-dominated state government has not been taking care of the citizens of the state and our environment but satisfying the polluting corporations.  Witness how they have let the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) make fracking rules that fly in the face of any attempt to protect citizens from extremely harmful pollution.

Coal ash is also very harmful to human beings as it contains heavy metals and radioactive material, which fracking fluid has. Furthermore, moving coal ash several hundred miles presents additional threats of pollution, and storing it in landfills located in old clay pits from brick making and then lining them with plastic isn’t going to prevent the poisons from leaking and getting into ground water, surface water, and the air.  Sooner or later all landfills leak.  The ash should be turned into the solid salt stone and stored in huge concrete bunkers on site.  But the long and short of it is: We don’t want it in Chatham and Lee Counties.

Some of us are now working together to save our communities from this terrible strike against us.  Our strategy is to rouse public opinion.  What’s being done to us by an American public utilities company is worse than terrorism.  It is reminiscent of Nazi-ism, which also used large corporations to help them exterminate millions of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.  Duke Energy’s actions suggest their mindset: Go after those who are different: the poor, the low income folks, the minorities, the gay.  Terrify them by polluting their environment and offering “jobs.”  Jobs that make you sick.  Jobs that are here today and gone tomorrow.  Separate those who might make allies of each other, reward the rich with more money and prosecute the poor if they object to being exterminated.  Use the “it won’t hurt me” psychology so that their neighbors will be afraid to get involved.  Twist the truth and make it slick.  Tell lies.  Corrupt the state government and run over the local governments to tie their hands since they’ve sworn allegiance to the state.  Violate the state constitution in the name of law. Our Goodliest Land is being poisoned, its citizens slowly but remorselessly sickened and killed off.

Plato said, “Truth is the best rhetoric.”  Citizens can afford to tell the truth.  Corporations can’t.  If Duke Energy couldn’t corrupt its employees to spew out their lies, if the public relations staff told the truth, we’d see a change.  Fear of job loss?  Of course.  What other weapon can be used to force basically honest people to tell lies, to soothe, instead of sounding a warning.  So we as citizens must be the truth speakers.  When the state is acting criminally, then the honest man or woman willingly risks imprisonment.  

All this torture and killing of Duke Energy’s customers for the sake of money! Whose money?  Our money.  Our rates are raised for corporate profits.  We pay and die.  A strange irony in a democracy.  Back in 1776 we promised ourselves that we would have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That has been elusive for many American citizens over those centuries, and never so much as right now.  Somehow the polluting corporations gained control of the state government and feel free to dump their waste where we live and are now threatened with extermination.  If we don’t die of the heavy metals and radioactive material in coal ash and fracking fluid, our children and grandchildren will.

We can change this picture by speaking truth to power, as my dear friend Margie Ellison always said.  We can rouse public opinion. Our allies are each other.  We can refuse to be separated and disenfranchised.  North Carolina and our counties here in this goodliest land are where we live, work, and raise our children.  We will take center stage away from Duke Energy and its lies.  Truth wins ultimately.  Public opinion can bring a huge corporation to its knees.  They need our passivity and silence.  We will be activist and speak out through our words and our actions.  We will be Davids against the Duke Goliath.

Friday night in the Moncure Volunteer Fire Department’s meeting room I watched a transformation of a solemn, scared, angry crowd of thirty people become a community ready to give time and do work.  That’s the answer.  Helping and motivating each other. Hoping, trusting, and loving.  These are strategies Duke Energy never knew or has forgotten.

Mountains of Coal Ash

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