~ The Who: Won't Get Fooled Again
This recent article caught my eye:
You might say I am jaded. You would be correct. That said, in early 2017, I, was cautiously optimistic- even hopeful- that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was turning over a new leaf, and that Duke Energy's influence would decrease. They certainly spent a lot of time touting that. You know the old saying... ummmm- well, if it happens twice shame on me. Instead, let's talk about a company strongly identified with the McCrory administration- Duke Energy. We all know about Duke Energy's coal ash problems- but did you know that Duke Energy is a major partner in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline?
Has anything changed?
The first indication that things might not be so rosy is that DEQ appealed Superior Court Judge Carl Fox's decision on the Chatham and Lee county coal ash landfills. You may recall that Judge Fox ruled that what Charah was doing was not mine reclamation. Lisa Sorg's article gives a good explanation.
Judge Fox: DEQ acted improperly in allowing coal ash to be buried in unmined land in Chatham County
At this point, DEQ could have done the right thing, saved some money, declined to appeal Judge Fox's decision, and let the company handle it all. Alas, this was not to be- DEQ chose to appeal.
DEQ appeals Judge Fox’s ruling on Brickhaven mine, coal ash
Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)
The new and improved DEQ held lots of meetings on this issue and had several different comment periods. They invited impacted community people to come to Raleigh and meet, several times. People provided information to DEQ regarding environmental justice, no need for the pipeline, potential environmental harm, safety, and Dominion's (majority stockholder) plans to extend into South Carolina. There were numerous reasons that DEQ could have, in fact should have, denied the 401 Certification- the major permit that would allow the pipeline to go forward.
Then, this happened:
Duke Energy, ready to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, goes to the top: Gov. Cooper
On January 26, 2018, DEQ approved the 401, and Governor Roy Cooper proudly announced that ACP was going to pay the state $57.8 million for the privilege. How do you like your quid pro quo served?
Atlantic Coast Pipeline could bring $57.8M headache for Gov. Roy Cooper
Also on January 26, several organizations "visited" DEQ appealing to the agency not to issue the permit. We left after Secretary Michael Regan agreed to meet with us at a later date. On January 30, 2018 I submitted a records request on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This is the reply I got from Secretary Regan's Executive Assistant:
Good morning Ms. Vick, Thank you for your public information request. We will use the time to respond to your request as quickly as possible, and will explore meeting dates at a later time.
We were gobsmacked. (See what I did there?) With all the grief we gave former Governor Pat McCrory, I was never "punished" for submitting a records request. Even worse- all the other orgs were sent to time out as well- and they had nothing to do with BREDL's request.
Perhaps most disturbing is DEQ's inaction on environmental justice issues surrounding the ACP. DEQ accepted without question the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's flawed environmental justice findings. This provides a stark contrast to their rush to protect mostly white, mostly wealthy beach communities from offshore drilling.
N.C. governor stuck between a pipeline and offshore drilling plan
“Although it’s fantastic Cooper is fighting for our coast, approving the Atlantic Coast Pipeline demonstrates how committed he is to environmental justice, as well as [fighting] climate change,” said Therese Vick, an organizer with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. “It looks like hypocrisy. It is hypocrisy.”
Activists, Attorneys Say Government Ignored Data on Negative Impact of Pipeline on Natives, Blacks The number of Indigenous people who could be negatively impacted is larger than those living near the Dakota Access pipeline.
The new DEQ emphasizes their commitment to transparency. However, BREDL's January 29, 2018 records request has not been fulfilled- (except for a link to a few records that magically disappeared). In a few days, DEQ will exceed the time it took to get records from the McCrory administration.
Yes, change takes time. But while DEQ is establishing their Boards and holding their meetings, they are continuing to issue permits that allow pollutants to be released into communities, and put families in harms way from explosions, spills and other accidents. All this talkin' pretty is meaningless unless backed with enforcement actions, true transparency, and maybe ~gasp~ a few permit denials.
House destroyed by pipeline explosion