It is day 48 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately blog. The news continues to be focused on the coal ash spill, and the question of not enough oversight is central as is addressed in the following article. Oversight is always central when it comes to keeping the environment and public health safe. And without independent oversight, there are no guarantees that oversight is actually conducted effectively.
“Could stricter oversight have prevented spill,” by Taft Wireback
(Greensboro, N.C) News & Record
DANVILLE — You couldn’t exactly say that regulators oozed personality at last week’s public hearing 20 miles downstream from Duke Energy’s massive coal ash spill.
But federal responders and other government officials sought to reassure a standing-room-only crowd of people who drink every day from the Dan River, now sullied by unknown tons of toxic ash from the Feb. 2 spill.
They promised a thorough cleanup of the ash basin accident at the shuttered Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C.
“Our job is making sure all the remediation that can be done, is done,” said Myles Bartos, an “on scene coordinator” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “We’re not going anywhere for a while.”
But Bartos and a platoon of his fellow officials dodged an important question several in the crowd posed in different ways: It’s great you’re here now, but where were you before it happened and why didn’t you prevent it?
Environmentalists have a ready answer.
“Where were the regulators? They were making things as easy as possible on business and corporations,” said Sam Perkins, a staff member with the Catawba Riverkeeper group that monitors its namesake river system.
“They were trying to push through a court settlement with the nation’s largest utility to excuse decades of coal ash contamination,” Perkins said of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources that supervises and Duke’s Dan River other coal ash operations.
Officials at DENR counter that the overall issue of coal ash regulation, both statewide and nationally, involves much more complexity than critics acknowledge.
They say the agency worked for years to gather sufficient data for new rules while at the federal level, EPA is nearing a final decision after more than a decade of discussing how best to tighten nationwide standards for coal ash handling and disposal.
“It is not a question of being asleep at the switch, but more a case of making sure that we have scientifically supportable data that will stand up to the scrutiny required when moving forward with compliance actions,” said Susan Massengale, a spokeswoman for DENR’s division of water resources.
Meanwhile, activists aren’t alone in their questions about DENR. Federal prosecutors in Raleigh launched a grand jury probe last week into the Dan River spill and the relationship between Duke and the state agency.
For the rest of the article, click the following link: http://www.godanriver.com/news/coal-ash/could-stricter-oversight-have-prevented-spill/article_8b324aa6-9775-11e3-8b22-001a4bcf6878.html