Sunday, April 19, 2015

Our Hope to Stop Duke Energy's Coal Ash Dumping


Blooming sage plant several springs ago.  Same brilliant green as is everywhere now in Central North Carolina.

***

GIFTS XVII. October 12, 2014

Only when the increase of gifts moves with the gift may the accumulated wealth of our spirit continue to grow among us, so that each of us may enter, and be revived by, a vitality beyond his or her solitary powers.  –Lewis Hyde, The Gift, p. 39.

Gifts do hold me up when I fear falling.
It’s like relying on spider webs.  I don’t
even know they’re there, and if I did,
how could I trust anything so fragile
and unpredictable?  I may tell myself
that other people will help me, that
messages are forming, but there’s
no proof.  The only clue is in my
spirit’s indefatigable faith in other
people, in the way the Universe works 
if you cling to your best wisdom,
your uncanny knowledge, and follow
where it leads, one careful step at
a time.  Don’t expect this to be easy
or without suffering.  Don’t expect
acclaim or adulation.  What you’re 
doing terrifies most people.  Some 
will stay as far away from you as 
they can or actively try to hobble
you.  What matters is that other
kindred souls are lifted up and
remember how you and they connected
in those heightened, ecstatic moments
that pull us close sometimes whether
we like it or not, often completely
by surprise.  Those few are your
companions.  They share their 
resources and are only too happy 
to give you a helping hand.  They
haven’t forgotten those exalted
moments when you were together,
no matter how many years ago.

***
Gary Simpson’s Speech at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Hearing on Duke Energy’s Coal Ash plan.  April 16, 2015, Chatham County Historic Courthouse.

Good evening,
I’m a resident of Pittsboro NC living at 82 Cynthia Lane, and my name is Gary Simpson.
These days if you reside in NC and your name is DUKE, whether it be the college team that plays basketball, or the corporate team that plays hard ball, people are sitting up and taking notice of the way that you play your game. We see that one of you now proudly has the cap of a champion covering your collective head, while the other is scrambling to literally cover your corporate ash by heaping coals (the remains thereof) on other people’s heads.

When I played basketball the scoreboard in our high school gymnasium was made by a company called FAIR PLAY. Every time we looked up and saw the company name on the bottom line of the scoreboard, we were reminded how we were supposed to play the game. 

Because the game of Life is far bigger than the game of basketball, citizens come to this historic courthouse tonight to plead our case for FAIR PLAY. We’ve come to ask Duke Energy, the biggest and baddest kid on the energy playground, to look up at the scoreboards that they power up and “see the light.” Lift up your eyes and see that FAIR PLAY is still the true bottom line. Game plans and business plans should play to the bottom line of moral and ethical conduct. They should benefit the common good, the health and well being of all and not just the coffers of the corporate few.
The irresponsible unloading and subsequent dumping of one’s toxic waste into somebody else’s back yard under the guise of doing folks a favor is not FAIR PLAY. It is FOUL PLAY!

It is FOUL PLAY to treat people and the environment that sustains them as “collateral damage” in the “means-justifies-the-ends” game of corporate profitability. 

It is FOUL PLAY to wash one’s dirty hands of toxic ash by unloading the responsibility for its disposal and management to a nebulous LLC that ultimately will take NO responsibility WHEN (not IF) the toxins hit the fan. 

The citizens - the flora and fauna - the air, land and waters of Chatham and Lee counties (or any county for that matter) do not deserve to reap the whirlwind of the foul wind that Duke Energy has knowingly sown over its long history of burning coal to sell electricity. That’s not FAIR PLAY!

So, if the largest corporate energy player on the planet won't PLAY FAIR, what then? Then officials who are charged to govern the conduct of the game justly must call the fouls and enforce the consequences, lest the game be denigrated into a criminal charade.
While the “ash hole” that Duke has dug for itself is deep, and finding a way out is complex, the people’s plea is simple. It is perhaps best summed up in the three-part formula for FAIR PLAY proclaimed long ago by the Prophet Micah : 

+ Do what is just… 
+ Lavish others with kindness and compassion…
+ Walk with humility and reverence in the Deity’s Creation.
***
Speech given by Diana Hales at the April 16, 2015 DENR Hearing

April 16, 2015:  Charah Permit for “Mine Reclamation” in Brickhaven (Chatham County)

Diana Hales, Chatham County Commissioner, 528 Will Be Lane, Siler City, NC 27344


We are here today because Duke Energy has a 70-year ash problem.  Existing coal ash pits around the state have failed and their contents are seeping into our public waters.  Instead of seeking a 21st century solution to permanently neutralize these toxic residuals, Duke Energy will dig more pits and transport their problems to Chatham and Lee counties. 
  
Our Legislature made a law to allow Duke Energy to move ash into so-called “structural fill” pits and compress it against a 20-year HDPE plastic liner to form twin 50-ft tall mounds in Moncure. This Frankenstein-monster permit strips local government authority, endangers public health, diminishes economic prospects, and offers a temporary Band-aide, not a solution.   

It is all in the name:  Solid Waste Management Facility, Structural Fill, Mine Reclamation Permit.

“Structural Fill” is a lie.  This is a solid waste landfill, but without the normal protections: 
No local government approval is required for this permit
No environmental impact study is required for this permit
Setbacks from private residences and water wells have been reduced from 500-feet to 300-ft
Setbacks from property boundaries have been reduced from 300-feet to 50-feet
Setbacks from surface waters have been reduced to 50-feet
Distance from the seasonal high groundwater table is only 4-feet! 

“Mine reclamation” is another lie.  The site plans show extensive areas of new excavation.  The existing quarry is but a small part of the plan at each site. 

In the Army Corps of Engineers permit Charah stipulates the liner has a 500-year life expectancy.  This is an outrageous claim, to say the least.  But then, Charah has no liability beyond 30-years.  Charah also claimed in that permit application it was bringing in 3 million tons of coal ash, when we know it is closer to 20 million tons between the Chatham and Lee sites.   

Leachate pollutant limits are extremely relaxed for coal combustion products.  The permit allows Charah to use the State’s 2T rules for metal toxicity.   These rules allow high concentrations of metals…in milligrams per liter…because the waste is not supposed to be discharged to surface waters.  However, the truth is that millions of gallons of Charah’s leachate will go downstream in the Cape Fear through a municipal waste water treatment facility. Most wastewater treatment plants do not do a good job at removing metals from their waste stream, because they use biological processes.  In fact, two of the metals, barium and thallium, are not included in their testing standards at all.  All those concentrated toxic metals will travel downstream or become the sludge spread on our farmland.

Deny this Frankenstein permit that has been cobbled together in a cauldron of special interests.
Deny this permit because it doesn’t solve our coal ash problem.
Our community has a right to clean air and water.  Deny this permit. 

***
THE OMENS ARRIVE VIII.  April 19, 2015

There’s no other word for it.  This plan
of Duke Energy to bury twenty million
tons of coal ash in our communities is
evil.  We are like the early Christians 
battling their persecutors in ancient
Rome, castigated, despised, treated
as less than human.  They found it
painful to hope.  So do we.  Yet, as
this April’s green rushes to the tops
of one hundred-foot trees, the grasses 
hurtle toward seed, the pea vines rise,
and the dogwoods flash their white
blossoms through the woods, hope
surges in me.  I’m behind in my
planting and weeding.  Instead, I’m
making speeches and comforting
my fellow warriors.  This indefatigable
green is my omen: We have reason to
hope, to let go our fear and dread.  
Hope is risen with the bold, truthful
words of our allies.  On the hearing
night, when it mattered, they came
to speak.  They called Duke’s game
plan “foul play.”  They said it broke
the provisions of our state constitution.
It would take our lives, our liberty, and
deny us our pursuit of happiness.  They
said Duke’s whole scheme was built
on a lie.  All that empty talk from
Duke officials vanished before our
eyes like a bullfrog when a giant water 
bug sucks out its juices until its skin
collapses.**  I try to imagine how those
corporate defenders think.  The man’s
title is Director of Community Relations,
but his job is to kill us off, quietly. 
Now the truth is out.  The spoken 
word with its best rhetoric–truth–
is heard on radio and television, read
in newspapers.  Hope may live in us
because green rises undaunted again.

** Cf. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard, p. 6.

***


Coal Ash blowing off the old Cape Fear coal ash ponds on Corinth Road, Good Friday, April 2, 2015.  



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