Tom Reeder, Director of DENR's Division of Water Quality summed up the Dan River disaster's impacts to wildlife at a February 17 Environmental Review Committee hearing: “If you’re a mollusk and covered with ash, then yeah, you’re gonna die". Photo source: Morris Lawson
Over a month has passed since a broken stormwater pipe under coal ash lagoons at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River power station began spewing 140,000 tons of toxic waste into the Dan River*. The nation’s 3rd largest coal ash disaster has been fraught with scandal and news about the intimate relationship between Duke Energy and NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) appears nearly every day. We have collected almost 200 unique articles and other media hits (and counting) on our dedicated Dan River news page. Coming on the heels of the West Virginia water crisis, it seems the public is more aware than ever of how high risk energy choices threaten the public’s waters. This is the ash spill that keeps on giving new developments that promise a safer, cleaner future for North Carolina’s communities and waters; like yesterday’s court ruling requiring Duke take immediate action to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.
All this attention on coal ash and latest ruling has only driven Duke Energy to make vague promises regarding future clean up of the Dan River spill and their other coal ash sites; we have yet to see any definitive plans to remove ash from the river or out of the failed Dan River impoundments. Following the unprecedented scrutiny, NC DENR and Governor McCrory issued violations against Duke Energy for their coal ash impoundment problems following years of lax regulatory oversight and friendly settlements of litigation brought by citizen groups.
In the meantime, while the humans argue, the river’s ecosystems and wildlife are suffering from the 70-mile long bar of ash coating the river bottom and those who live, work and play on the river are left to wonder about the long-term consequences.
We kept reaching out to Duke Energy in different ways, looking for that “game changer” step. Along the way, some Duke Energy staff told us that after the merger, it would take a little while for things to move forward. Unfortunately, it seems like after waiting, we’re seeing retrenchment towards a “compliance-only” business model. And we’re not the only ones who are concerned: former Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers has spoken out with criticism of the approach being taken by current utility management.
Solar energy represents an opportunity to reduce one’s impact on the environment, while also potentially saving money. It makes sense then, that faith-based organizations, which are often strapped for cash and devoted to environmental stewardship, would see the benefit of incorporating solar systems at their places of worship. This is true across cultures and includes example’s from a wide range religious beliefs. This blog, written in conjunction with the season of Lent which started for most Christian faiths this week, provides 50 widely-varied examples of this “enlightening” reality playing out in the Southeast, as well as other parts of the country and world. Note that this list is by no means comprehensive – there are countless more faith-based groups that have pursued solar projects in the U.S. and abroad. Spoiler: the smallest independent city-state in the world is also the greenest thanks to solar!
1. Adat Shalom Synagogue (Bethesda, MD)
“As Rabbi Fred Dobb explains, this helps the congregation fulfill its spiritual mission. "There is already tremendous pride within our congregation that we took this pioneering step and appreciation that we are actively practicing what we preach," he said. "Putting up solar panels is a deeply religious act."” Credit: Maryland Energy Administration
2. Al-Wilfaq Mosque (Amman, Jordan)
“Al-Wifaq is the first solar powered mosque in Jordan. 10 kW solar Photovoltaic system has been installed on the mosque's rooftop. The project was funded solely by one of the neighborhood's residents.” Credit: ETA Max
4,751 megawatts (MW) of new photovoltaic (PV) capacity was added in 2013, 41% greater than what was added in 2012 and nearly 15 times the amount installed in 2008. There were 140,000 individual solar installations in 2013, supported by even more jobs: 142,000. Solar accounted for nearly 30% of new generating capacity in the country, making it the second-largest source of new generating capacity for the year (behind natural gas).
As we have talked about in the past, an Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP, is an important utility planning process. It is a long-term energy supply plan that helps the utility make decisions about how to meet current and future electricity needs. It would be an appropriate place for Duke Energy to evaluate the impact of “an annual savings target of 1%.”
However, our comments on the 2013 IRP echoed our comments and conclusions from past IRPs – both Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress are not planning to meet the merger targets, or to save all the energy efficiency that is cheaper than the alternatives.
Therefore, the companies are planning to build too much capacity, and are not seizing the opportunity to reduce risks to customers from rising fuel costs and anticipated regulatory requirements.
The area proposed to be opened to oil and gas exploration.
Late last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), under the Department of Interior, released a document that continues the march toward offshore drilling along our coasts. The document is the final draft of the programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on proposed oil and gas exploration activities in the mid- and south Atlantic (from Delaware to Central Florida), which lays out general environmental guidelines for how that exploration may be carried out.
Despite receiving tens of thousands of comments from the American people voicing opposition to risky and controversial exploration practices, such as the use of seismic airguns, next to the places we call home, the administration is plowing ahead with plans that may severely jeopardize our coast. Several years of seismic blasting and other tests may take place even before exploratory oil drilling, let alone commercial operation, could occur.
Seismic airguns are a serious issue, as we’ve blogged about before. The crux of the issue is described in the following video from Oceana.
The Production Tax Credit (PTC) has led to the broad development of wind energy across the country. This federal incentive has worked exactly as designed, exceeded expectations and has led to billions of dollars of investment from the private industry. Yet, the PTC has recently experienced short-term and unpredictable extensions. Congress allowed the tax credit to expire at the end of 2013, creating instability in the wind industry and placing thousands of American jobs at risk. Over the years, the PTC has enjoyed broad bipartisan support; however, recent attacks on the wind industry have focused on ignoring the history of strong conservative support for the PTC. Here are ten reasons why conservatives support the PTC.
Tax credits have a long history of being supported as conservative policy. Tax credits reduce governmental burdens on private industry, allowing private industry and the free market to work more effectively. Conservatives abhor raising taxes; but because of a dysfunctional Congress, the PTC has lapsed and thus taxes have risen on the wind industry.
I’m so sick of political doublespeak in Washington and Tallahassee. It’s time that we the people get serious about holding our elected representatives accountable. Here is one that needs our attention: Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam.
Adam is a bright and very ambitious young man who wants to be Florida’s Governor one day. He was a rising star in Congress and then came back to Florida to run for statewide office as the Agriculture Commissioner. He brought the orphaned Florida State Energy office under the Department of Agriculture, because newly elected Governor Rick Scott had no interest in energy issues (and still doesn’t). Adam’s good intentions to try to advance real energy policy in Florida were quickly dashed by the big utilities’ influence, which now controls his energy agenda. In fact his Chief of Staff worked for Progress Energy and his General Council is married to a Florida Power and Light lobbyist. Sadly, in order to justify the lack of leadership on his watch, he claims there is “no appetite” for renewables in Florida. (See Clip) Read more…
The Black Warrior River supplies drinking water to 200,000 people in Birmingham and has 3.8 billion gallons of coal ash dumped along its banks. Photo Source: Nelson Brooke
If the recent chemical spill in West Virginia made you wonder about the safety of your drinking water supply, I don’t blame you. Over half of Alabamians get their drinking water from rivers, streams and reservoirs. Alabama has not historically placed a priority on protecting drinking water, meaning contamination is just an accident away.
Coal ash contains many toxic metals like mercury, lead and selenium. According to a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project, Alabama’s coal ash ponds receive more toxic metals than any other coal ash dumps in the nation. The majority of coal ash dump sites in the state are old, unlined,and only separated from our drinking water sources by earthen dams.
Recently, a storm water pipe broke in Eden, N.C., spilling an estimated 140,000 tons of coal ash and contaminated wastewater into the Dan River. The ash was stored at one of Duke Energy’s retired coal plants in an unlined ash pond, similar to many of the coal ash ponds we have in Alabama.
On March 3, 2014 Florida Power and Light (FPL) will bring the St. Lucie Unit 2 nuclear reactor near Fort Pierce, Florida down to perform a refueling of the radioactive fuel in the reactor’s core. FPL’s goal will be to swap the used, highly radioactive spent fuel rods out and put new fuel rods in as quickly as possible. The company will lose money everyday that the reactor is offline and not generating power, and they plan for this refueling to last about 30 days. This is a “routine” outage from FPL’s point of view, occurring about every 18-24 months. Yet recent outages nationwide have been anything but “routine,” and this cycle for St. Lucie is different in some very significant ways.
When FPL commissioned the reactor back in 1983, it was designed to produce 853 megawatts (MW) of power. In 2012, FPL received approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to allow the reactor to be run harder by increasing its power output by 17%. This outage will be the first time the St. Lucie Unit 2 reactor has completed a fuel cycle after operating at the higher power rating. Let’s not forget that this power uprate qualified as new nuclear generation under Florida’s controversial early nuclear cost recovery statute, also known as Florida’s “nuclear tax,” ultimately costing FPL customers just over $1 billion.
While St. Lucie had begun running at a higher power output, across the country in California the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), near San Diego, was the center of a major investigation that lead to the June 7, 2013 permanent retirement of San Onofre units 2-3. San Onofre unit 1 was shut down and retired in 1992 after 25 years of operation. On January 31, 2012 San Onofre unit 3 had a steam generator tube rupture and release radioactive steam, forcing the reactor to shut down. When other steam generator tubes were examined in units 2 and 3 they were found to have significant premature wear from vibrations occurring during operation. Over 3,000 tubes showed signs of premature wear, a number significantly higher than has been seen in every other reactor in this country except one: Florida’s St. Lucie Unit 2. Read more…
We value civil and focused discussion with our readers. We reserve the right to moderate all comments and may exclude any that are spam, abusive, indecent, or off-topic. The opinions expressed by those providing comments do not reflect the official position of SACE.