We messed up so you have to pay to clean up

Charlotte, N.C. — Duke Energy Chief Executive Lynn Good said Friday that customers will shoulder most of the cost of emptying out the utility’s 31 coal ash ponds in North Carolina.

Good’s comments, first reported by The Charlotte Observer, were confirmed Friday evening by Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan.

Sheehan stressed that the company, not its customers, will pay to clean up the recent 39,000-ton coal ash spill in the Dan River. But if the state requires the utility to close down and move its other existing ash pits, then utility customers, not shareholders, will likely pay most of that cost.

The residents of North Carolina should be livid.  Their major energy provider, Duke Energy, sounds like they’re gearing up to stiff the residents for the cleanup tab for the mess the utility made all on their own.  If the residents think anything different, then they need to wake up and smell the coffee.  As the above linked article from WRAL points out, North Carolina allows companies to recover costs associated with any financial investments made in regards to environmental compliance.

It’s a win-win for the utility, and a lose-lose for the residents.  The company has profited from the activities that created the environmental issue, and now they get to charge their users more to cover the costs of cleaning up their mess.  This is why I don’t like the idea of a private company having a monopoly on providing ANY utility service that people rely on for basic living.  There is way too much potential for corruption with such as system, and even in the absence of outright corruption, the potential for abuse of the residents is high.

The governor of North Carolina had his campaign financed, in part, thanks to contributions from Duke Energy and its employees in excess of $1 million dollars in direct and indirect campaign contributions.  In addition, Gov. McCrory is a former executive employee of Duke Energy and currently owns shares in that company as well.  Right after the coal ash spill that turned the Dan River toxic, the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had 13% of its staff cut in the Division of Water Resources.  That department’s mission statement is, “to protect, enhance and manage North Carolina’s surface and ground water resources for the health and welfare of the citizens of North Carolina, and the economic well-being of the state.”

If you think it’s just a problem in North Carolina, then think again.  Coal ash contamination sites are known in 37 states based on information found at Earth Justice.  CNN ran a story back in 2012 about a small town in Georgia that had health related issues that were suspected to be related to a nearby coal-burning power plant.

I don’t know enough about this to say whether it’s a widespread and urgent issue, but reading the contaminants involved in these spill and the medical complications that can follow suit makes me question the quality of water we have to drink.  We put our faith in those who provide services in the hopes that they don’t kill us off at the same time.  It’s hard to make a profit from a dead person, unless you’re in the funeral business.

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11 thoughts on “We messed up so you have to pay to clean up

  1. Anybody that has watched the Southern Company and/or Georgia Transmission for the last few decades can’t really be surprised by things like this.

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    • Not surprised in the least. I find it interesting that companies are comfortable enough with their actions and the lack of negative feedback that they’re going public with such things. I guess that happens when the regulators side with corporations over the people they’re supposed to protect.

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  2. I think you’ll be okay as long as you don’t drink directly from the ash pond. In spite of what our media reports, our drinking water is safer now than it was some 100 +/– years ago.

    As I recall, some UGA students tested the water in Juliette and found the water to be safe for consumption. Coal dust in the air due to transport? They recommended further studies in that area.

    http://www.macon.com/2013/04/15/2438731/new-water-test-results-shed-light.html

    I’ve always said that human need was the virus within God’s perfect creation.

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    • Reading that article you linked, I see more inconclusiveness than anything else. The students’ study used a small sample size, and the article even states the limitations of their testing capability. I wouldn’t outright discredit their study as I would any other, but I think the professor quoted near the end has it right when he says there should be more study done. The problem with that is the cost, and in many cases, the cost to study exceeds the cost of possible human lives. It’s a trade-off that we live with in this society.

      I don’t worry as much about my health as I’m fairly healthy and can withstand much more than my one-year-old can. People with compromised immune systems have a much different level of safe than what I do as well.

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    • I’m relaxed. I can believe that about trees because of efforts at planting as well as updated techniques for tree harvesting. That said, trees are much easier to renew than water. If/Until desalination becomes efficient and affordable, there’s only so much water available for drinking purposes. (ISH)

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    • Ah but what kind of trees are they? That’s where the rub comes in. My Grandpa and 2 of my Great Grandpas were timber men. I can remember my Grandpa cussing “this damn second growth lumber”, which you’re lucky to even find today. Today’s lumber (open grained and grown too fast) is likely to be 3rd, 4th, or even more. I can’t even remember the last time I saw a decent 2 x 4 (which used to be 2″ by 4″ but is now 1 1/2″ by 3 1/2″, by the way).

      In my area up here in the Hills, as well as many other parts of the Eastern U.S., the predominant tree was the Chestnut; all long since gone due to the Chestnut blight. The Hemlocks and Hickories are in peril from imported diseases now, as well as some Dogwoods.

      In my opinion, when you cut out hardwoods and plant pines in their place, you really haven’t done much. A tree isn’t just a tree.

      Ever seen a yellow lady slipper? Not many people have because they grow almost exclusively in Oak groves, and there’s not much place for them to live, anymore. By the way, they have to be at least 10 years old to bloom.

      I can remember my Grandpa (born in the 1890’s, telling me about all the things that were around when he was a kid, that were gone; Chestnut trees, great flocks of wild pigeons (not the city variety), eels in every creek in North Georgia (eels are the opposite of salmon; spawn in the ocean and live in fresh water) but the dams (Buford among others) put an end to that. Once something is gone; it’s gone.

      Thus concludes my rant for the day.

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      • Rant approved!

        I can say that I haven’t seen any of what you described. I can also acknowledge the loss of old growth timber.

        I hate to think of what things will be like for my grandkids.

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  3. While this may be a good argument for disliking Duke Energy, I don’t think it’s a good argument for competition in the energy market. In fact, I don’t think there are any good arguments for energy deregulation until we have some radically new form of energy. In order to have competition in a market, by definition you have to have excess supply. I certainly don’t have proof, but my guess is that excess supply in the energy market — energy we make that no one buys because another supplier is a nicer guy or offers lower prices — is even more damaging to the environment than an occasional spill, mess, or contamination.

    What we need is tighter regulation, more accountability, and that radically new form of energy. Preferably one that causes mild global cooling!

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    • I understand that. Utilities are one thing that I don’t think should be in the hands of private sector companies without some effective regulations to ensure they operate above board. When you have a situation where the regulator refers to the company as his customer as opposed to the people he’s elected to protect, then you have a situation that will ultimately end up like this one.

      I’m old enough to remember when utilities were run by the municipality they served. I think that would be better than privatization.

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  4. Until desalination becomes efficient and affordable, there’s only so much water available for drinking purposes. (ISH)

    Not to worry, Netanyahu (Israel) has that one covered. He’s working with California’s Gov. Brown.

    Netanyahu Offers to Help Brown Manage California Drought

    North of San Diego, Israel’s IDE Technologies Ltd. is helping to build what it says will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. The facility in Carlsbad, when finished in 2016, will be able to provide 50 million gallons of potable water a day. Three smaller plants already operate in California, and 15 more have been proposed.

    Next thing to worry about? Depleting the oceans, thereby releasing the methane gases found beneath the ocean floor. The good news? Methane only persists in the atmosphere for 10 years.

    As is often the case, solutions beget more problems.

    I’m just methin’ witcha, Bro.

    Hillbilly:

    I’m with you on the pine trees. Pretty worthless in my book.

    Recently one of ours snapped half way up. It was leaning out over the power line and beyond (into the road). We called EMC and 911 thinking they may want to re-route traffic until EMC arrived. They didn’t see the need. EMC arrived…had to tie the treetop off…anchor it to one of our hardwoods and pull away from their lines and the road. In the process, five other pines snapped and came down with the original culprit. It was a mess.

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