January 10, 2020/Press

North Carolina Still Cleaning Up Tillis’ “Soul-Crushing” Environmental Record with Coal Ash Settlement

Duke Energy last week agreed to “the largest coal-ash clean up in U.S. history,” a settlement with the Department of Environmental Quality that puts a spotlight on Senator Tillis’ disastrous environmental record in Raleigh when he was Speaker of the House.

In 2014, a ruptured pipeline spilled nearly 40,000 tons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River, one of the worst environmental disasters in state history.

Senator Tillis played a key role in handcuffing the state’s environmental regulators, both before and after the spill. Tillis passed a budget that kneecapped the state’s water quality regulators, a move staffers described as “soul-crushing” and part of an “historic and hostile takeover.” In the aftermath of the crisis, Tillis pushed industry friendly legislation that even Senate Republicans opposed.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented community and environmental groups that intervened in the case leading to last week’s settlement, said at the time that Tillis’ legislation “inexplicably attempts to weaken our state’s existing groundwater protection laws in favor of Duke Energy.

Senator Tillis last year said, “If I could wave a wand and do everything we did in North Carolina up in D.C., we’d be even better off.” But recent events sparked by his record – including an education legacy that failed students, a voter suppression record targeting African-Americans, and an environmental record putting corporate polluters before public health and safety – reveals North Carolina is still picking up the pieces from his failed leadership.

News & Observer: Duke Energy will dig up most of its coal ash under a settlement with North Carolina
By Lynn Bonner
January 2, 2020

Key Points:

  • Duke Energy will dig up nearly 80 million tons of coal ash at six sites in North Carolina in a legal settlement with the state Department of Environmental Quality.
  • DEQ said the excavation would be the largest coal-ash clean up in U.S. history.
  • Last year, DEQ ordered the utility to dig up ash from nine basins at six sites. Duke Energy had planned to keep the ash in place at those locations, sealed with a cap. The utility sued DEQ over the order. The settlement was signed Dec. 31.
  • A 2014 spill that dumped contaminated water and tons of toxic coal ash from a Duke Energy containment pond into the Dan River brought to public attention the environmental hazards posed by coal ash basins.

Read the full article online here.

News & Observer: Op-ed: Soul-Crushing Takeover of NC DENR Brings Resignation
By Amy Adams
December 15, 2013

Key Points:

  • I never planned to leave state government. I loved my job at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
  • Dedicating my career to the agency charged with protecting my home state’s water, air and land for the public interest was a nobrainer. Unfortunately, so was quitting the agency this fall.
  • For years, DENR has been stretched thin, its programs underfunded, its staff overworked, yet we managed to adhere to our core mission, and to the personal dedication that drives many of us who work in state government. But this year’s historic and hostile takeover of DENR by politically and ideologically motivated lawmakers in the General Assembly was soul-crushing. I could no longer clock in in good conscience that I could uphold my commitment to protect the environment.
  • The General Assembly’s legislation reorganizing DENR results in deep cuts to staff and resources. The Division of Water Quality staff, for example, will likely be 24 percent smaller by March than it was in early 2011. “Do more with less” has become the mantra of upper management, but we in the ranks heard the message loud and clear: “Do less. Period.”

Read the full opinion piece online here.