Republican attack on the environment

After S559 is amended, Duke Energy pushes for rate increases

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There's more than one way to skin a ratepayer:

Duke Energy has asked state regulators to approve an average 12.3% rate increase for its division serving eastern North Carolina and the Asheville area. The filing Wednesday with the North Carolina Utilities Commission seeks an additional $464 million to pay for retiring coal plants, closing coal ash dumps, and improving the electric grid.

Duke says residential rates would rise an average 14.3%, if approved by regulators. A typical customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity monthly would pay about $17 more, or a total of about $138.

Don't let that "Ashevillle" area thing fool you; a healthy chunk of the people affected are not young urban professionals. Both Eastern and Western North Carolina suffer heavily from poverty, and this increase will push even more folks over that ledge. A higher electric bill *will* take food off the tables of many, especially those on a fixed income:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Lead isotope can trace origins of coal ash

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Duke Energy's "naturally occurring" argument just went lame:

Tests show that the tracer can distinguish between the chemical signature of lead that comes from coal ash and lead that comes from other major human or natural sources, including legacy contamination from leaded gasoline and lead paint. "Lead adds to our forensic toolbox and gives us a powerful new method for tracking fly ash contamination in the environment," said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

The tracer broadens scientists' ability to assess and monitor exposure risks of people who live or work near coal ash ponds and landfills or near sites where coal ash is being spread on soil as fill or reused for other purposes.

As I mentioned above, Duke Energy has played the "naturally occurring" card numerous times when individual toxic elements are discovered, and fossil fuel-friendly lawmakers have parroted those talking points ad nauseum during hearings and debates. I have often been frustrated with government regulators (state and federal) for not upping their scientific game to pierce that ambiguity. But in reality, they are simply not funded well enough to accomplish the R&D work and the regulatory work. Especially since the GOP took over the NC General Assembly and cut DENR's/DEQ's budget by over 40%. That research shortfall was not a coincidence, it was by design. Once again, we are blessed to have Avner and the Nicholas School working toward solutions:

Natural Gas is not the cure for Climate Change

It is actually making it worse:

"The time is now to stop building more fossil fuel construction," Shindell, who is part of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said on a conference call with reporters.

The press conference was arranged by NC WARN, a climate activism group that has opposed Duke Energy's expansion plans for years. Shindell keyed not just on carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas responsible for rising average temperatures, but on its less-covered cousin: Methane.

Methane is something like 60 times worse than carbon dioxide in trapping insolation, so it warrants much closer scrutiny than Co2 emissions. But its volatile nature makes that difficult, because it will escape into the atmosphere wherever it finds a weakness in its containment infrastructure. There are over 1.5 million active gas and oil wells in the United States alone, and each one suffers from fugitive emissions of Methane. Same goes with the pipelines, and monitoring thousands of miles of those is impossible, even if the industry tried. Which they don't. And this desperately needs a clarification:

GenX concentration in Wilmington's water a lot worse than previously reported

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Sometimes breakthroughs in technology are depressing as hell:

According to a new analysis of preserved samples from 2014 to 2016, PFAS that contain an ether molecule were found at concentrations of at least as high as 130,000 parts per trillion near Lock and Dam No. 1, near the drinking water intake for the City of Wilmington. The contamination originated at the Chemours/DuPont facility more than 80 miles upstream.

The samples at Lock and Dam No. 1 were taken in 2015 by NC State and EPA researchers. But only now, with advanced technology, can scientists more accurately measure the concentrations of PFAS in water.

Don't be fooled by the short time range of the samples; those levels have likely been that high for decades:

Pope Foundation a core element of Climate Change denialism network

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A network that is coordinated and very well-funded:

According to Brulle's research, the 91 think tanks and advocacy organizations and trade associations that make up the American climate denial industry pull down just shy of a billion dollars each year, money used to lobby or sway public opinion on climate change and other issues.

“The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires,” says the Guardian, “often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change.”

We've talked a lot here at BlueNC about the propaganda written by Civitas and JLF, and the amount of direct influence Art Pope has exerted on Republican lawmakers here. But those things are visible and often "in-your-face." The function of the Pope Foundation as part of a much broader scheme to undermine science is not so easily detected, unless you use science to detect the anti-science:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Go get 'em, Avner

Duke professor to address EPA over coal ash deregulation:

Nearly six years after a busted drainage pipe at a Duke Energy coal ash containment pond turned the Dan River into an oily sludge, the Trump administration is considering a move to roll back some of the Obama-era rules that ban the disposal of coal ash in soil or pits and landfills that aren't lined to protect the environment.

At his Duke University lab, ABC11 caught up with the geochemistry professor headed to the EPA hearing about the issue scheduled for Wednesday morning. Avner Vengosh told ABC11 he's going in hopes of convincing the agency to keep the protections in place. "My coming to EPA is to bring the science," said Vengosh. "Demonstrating that putting coal ash without restrictions is a really bad idea."

Professor Vengosh and his graduate students at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment have done groundbreaking work on contaminants that threaten water quality. They're the ones who (finally) proved the Methane contamination of drinking water wells actually originated from the shale being fracked miles below, by looking at the isotopic signature. So we should all be inclined to pay attention to them on this as well:

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