Saturday, April 25, 2015

Goldsboro Reading and Workshop--April 1, 2015


Wayne County Library, sponsored by the Friends of the Wayne County Library

Going to Goldsboro for a reading has become a ritual as well as a highlight of my reading schedule when I have a new book out.  Killer Frost (2012), Farm Fresh and Fatal and Beaver Soul (2013) were all celebrated in Goldsboro, thanks to the efforts of Katherine Wood Wolfe, who’d been my writing student in the late 90s.  This past April 1 (it was poetry month), Katherine had arranged for me to do both a reading of my new poetry book, This River: An Epic Love Poem, and a workshop on how writers can get published these days from 6-9 P.M.

Left to right, Gail Carucci, Judy, Katherine Wolfe


Two students from my winter “Tell Your Life Story” class helped out, too.  Gail Carucci of Sanford drove me there and helped set up for the reading and sell books during the evening.  Mary Susan Heath, who lives in Goldsboro, kept Gail overnight, took photos, and also gave Gail, Katherine and me a bacon and egg send-off breakfast the next morning.  For the evening program Katherine laid out a feast of refreshments with flowers to decorate the tables, and sent me home with my first begonia plant.  To the reading came some Goldsboro folks I’d met before, some new faces, and then Margaret Baddour, with whom I’d worked back in the mid-80s to start our N.C. Writers’ Network, came and brought her writing class.  We had sixteen folks there.  


It was a whirlwind 24 hours.  On arrival, Gail and I had lunch with Mary Susan and Katherine, and an early supper, too, and we left the next morning by 8 A.M. to return to Moncure and Sanford.  The best part for me was being so valued and appreciated.  It comes harder each year to coax readers to book readings and then selling the books person-to-person.  When they not only come and buy books but also cherish you like I was cherished in Goldsboro, it makes all the difference, and the $81in book sales helps, too.  I have to get another book out for next year so I can return to Goldsboro!

Judy and Mary Susan Heath at the book-selling table.

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.  

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Judy's Coal Ash Protest Speeches--April 2015

No Coal Ash Sign on Buckhorn Road, Chatham County


Speech for Chatham Board of Commissioners, April 13, 11 AM

I have been privileged to hear several times our commissioners’ well-formulated questions to Duke Energy and Charah and their very inadequate answers.  After reading their recent answers to our commissioners’ questions, I felt like the child, who alone of all the spectators when the king passes by, says, “But the king has no clothes on.” Duke Energy has no clothes on.  

What I mean is, once Green Meadows has its permits, Duke Energy has no control over what Charah does.  We know Charah is careless about coal ash flying out of their trucks and rail cars.  We know that Charah engages sub-contractors, and if they mess up, as the wall-builders in the Asheville Airport did, Charah claims it had nothing to do with that.  We know that once the ash leaves Duke’s property the liability is shifted to Charah, or maybe to their sub-contractors, or even to the limited liability company Green Meadows.  We know that coal ash should not be moved.  We know that many people live, work, shop, and farm along the train and truck routes outlined in the Green Meadows permit.

We know that if this happens, our communities in southeastern Chatham will be harmed irreparably.  We don’t want to be Duke’s human sacrifice.  We live in a democracy where we are guaranteed our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  We are being treated like people are under a totalitarian regime.  Corporations helped the Nazis exterminate six million Jews.  Duke Energy is, in effect, practicing genocide on the good people in southeast Chatham and northern Lee county.  We refuse to be killed off in the name of Duke Energy’s corporate profits.  We shall overcome.  We see clearly Duke Energy’s naked purpose: to kill us.  We refuse to die.

Speech for Lee County DENR hearing–April 13, 2015

My name is Judy Hogan.  I live in Moncure, half a mile from the Deep River and Lee County.  Both the Brickhaven and Colon Road designated coal ash dump sites are within five miles by air from me.  I live on Moncure-Pittsboro Rd., with its heavy traffic of commuters, school buses, trucks carrying bricks, logs, plywood, chemicals.  Now there are probably already 120-140 trucks a day passing every 5-6 minutes coming and going to our industrial district along Corinth Road, often exceeding the speed limit, which is 45 for the curve above me.  People who live on that curve regularly have trucks wreck in their front yard.  Add 120-140 30-ton coal ash dump trucks within 12 hours, that’s a truck every 2-1/2 to 3 minutes.  The CSX train track is one mile away, and when we go to our local post office, we are less than one hundred yards from the CSX train track.  If the permits go through, and we know DENR is no longer seriously willing or able to protect our environment, I won’t be able to live in my house, grow vegetables, fruit, and raise chickens, nor will I be able to sell this little farm where I had hoped to die at a ripe old age. 

I live very simply on a fixed income.  At 77 I’m still healthy, but I won’t stay here to be poisoned.  The trucks and rail cars carrying coal ash to Colon Road are also likely to use my road.  Hundreds of people live in these targeted areas.  Few of us are rich.  All of us value our land, our gardens, our pets and farm animals, and our children.  We don’t want our women to abort their babies, our babies to be born malformed, our little children to have nerve damage and cancer.  Coal ash should not be moved.  I have good friends in Lee County. I have taught at CCCC in Sanford.  I have fought against fracking with my Lee County neighbors and now we are all fighting against Duke Energy’s plan to introduce genocide into our American democracy.  Duke’s plan is criminal.  DENR needs to deny their permits for Green Meadows that allows Duke to shift its own coal ash problem onto the good people of Lee and Chatham countries.


Speech for Chatham County DENR Hearing on Coal Ash–April 16, 2015

I live in Moncure, a wonderful community.  I moved here to my first owned home 16 years ago and immediately began to fight, first against a low-level nuclear dump; then against three landfills, then to stop our air pollution which DENR had neglected for 10 years. A lot of people I knew here 16 years ago have died since, many of cancer.  I fought to get Progress Energy to stop shipping nuclear waste by train through our community.  I fought to keep fracking out of North Carolina.  In the process I met and came to love the diverse people here in Moncure, most of whom still hold to the traditional American way among country people, of helping each other.  

I’ve had good neighbors, and we made friends as we worked to save our community from environmental injustice.  Now we fight Duke Energy’s plan to force us to have 12 million tons of coal ash transported past our homes, businesses, churches, and farms.  We know it’s a hazardous waste, even if EPA hasn’t said so yet.  We know it shouldn’t be moved or get into our air, water, or onto our land.  We know it would kill us off, babies first.  

We know Duke doesn’t admit to how lethal coal ash is.  We hear the word games.  “Here’s a glass of water.  This is the leachate from the Asheville Airport site.  It’s too clean for a waste water treatment plant”.  No mention of the lead, mercury, arsenic, selenium and other heavy metals in that glass of water.  It isn’t the organic waste that will kill us, but the inorganic, those murderous chemicals that you can’t see.  

No amount of wetting the ash or spraying it with chemicals will keep it from drying out and blowing on a hot and windy day after a journey of 150 miles.  We don’t trust Duke, Charah or Green Meadows.  If Duke wants to be a good neighbor, let them pay for their own neglect of their coal ash ponds all over North Carolina, and treat the good people of Chatham and Lee counties as if they weren’t ruling us in a totalitarian mode, turning our meadows and streams black.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

When One's Poetry Is Read

Pear tree blossoms; peach blossoms behind them.  April, 2013

I was honored this past week in a way I never expected.  In a celebration of Kostroma Russia’s sister city, Durham, NC, a group of secondary school students presented poetry, music, and dance about Durham.  One young woman read part of my poetry book Susannah, Teach Me to Love/Grace, Sing to Me, Book 4.  Here’s what she recited.  She had memorized these lines.

It is neither spring nor some lush lane
of new, intoxicating green.  It is the last
of a dry, hot spell.  I am in downtown Durham
taking my walk past smoothly concrete banks
and large urban motels, and then shops, in an
area supposedly renovated, where half the stores
are empty and out of business and boarded up.

Durham is your city.  You have haunted it,
photographed it; you told me some club downtown–
was it the Odyssey Club that I passed?--
had just been bought by one of your friends
for a theatre.  I looked at another empty club
building, too, and wondered if that was it...

There’s more in the poem, but this is what she recited.  A huge gift. Then a young woman played a keyboard quite beautifully; a young man, a saxophone.  One young man played a guitar while a young woman danced wildly, her limbs loose and nimble.  Clearly they were liking many things about Durham, about America.  The music, dance, even the poetry.  Here’s the link of the you-tube film, about 20 minutes long, mostly in Russian, but near the beginning at 1.43 minutes, there is the young woman reading my poetry, written back in 1983. Amazing.
Dear Judy,
we haven’t had an event about your poetry yet (I hope we’ll manage to do it in April) but there was an event about Durham at the library of a Kostroma school. We use a small part of your poem. Here is a video about this event, sorry, it’s in Russian but your poem is recited in English, it starts on 1:43 of the time scale. The girl was a bit nervous; she knew that the author would watch her reciting.
I hope you enjoy it.
Take care,

Tatiana [A Kostroma Regional Librarian]


Then last Saturday Jane Gallagher, a good friend whom I haven’t seen in along time, dropped by to hug me and wish me luck on the difficult work we do now to stop two huge coal ash dumps from coming to two places near where I live.  She didn’t understand how I could be optimistic that we could keep these dumps out of Chatham and Lee County, how I could live normally, even peacefully, while I also worked to stop it.  A good question.  If you’re working to change a difficult situation, it eases the fear.  I am afraid sometimes, but I can’t stay there.  I write in my diary; I take a walk, I plant peas, beets, and carrots.  Anyway, Jane left with my new poetry book  This River: An Epic Love Story.  She wrote me a few days later–maybe the next day–this.  Thank you, Jane. Real readers finding something they enjoy in my books helps so much.
I treated myself to The River today. I read it on my hammock under a large oak tree. Beautiful. I loved it as I did Beaver Soul. 
I especially liked 
...We can't give each other what we don't create ourselves ..... 
...I must do as the river does move on and on. I must love my banks. She carries with her that which we leave behind 
......take one's place in the world in a way that matters 
....We must choose carefully every day, balance within ourselves our needs , the needs of others, our most urgent tasks and what we will let flow past us never to return. 
.....Better to aim one’s life toward a radiant horizon, a sky made red by sun than let oblivion declare black the sole reality, or grey, our fated life. The river keeps brimming with gold. My eyes keep seeing the glowing embers of a sky in winter before the dark curtain falls ...
I am glad you had a true love. 
Thanks for sharing,

Jane Gallagher


I’d love to hear from others of you out there what you think of any of my poetry books, but I do think This River is my best so far among my published books.  Judy Hogan