It is day 44 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately blog, and in the spirit of questioning those who are government-related, I am sharing the following blog from Therese Vick who works with the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. It’s amazing to see that the federal government is going to investigate our North Carolina state government on the recent coal ash disaster.  We’ll see how impartial the investigation actually is.


The shadow of things to come: US investigates NC environment agency after coal-ash spill

                                               “Power, wrongly used, defeats the oppressor as well as the oppressed.”
                                                                                                                       -Wally Lamb-
As I was reviewing the last Mining and Energy Commission audios for a new post, this article landed in my inbox:
RALEIGH, N.C. — Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into North Carolina’s environmental agency following a massive coal ash spill on the Dan River. The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a grand jury subpoena requesting records from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. They include emails, memos and reports from 2010 through the Feb. 2 spill. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the subpoena on Thursday. The spill at a Duke Energy plant in Eden spewed enough toxic ash into the river to fill 72 Olympic-sized pools. It was the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.The order commands the state environmental agency’s chief lawyer to appear next month before the grand jury in Raleigh. Agency spokesman Drew Elliot says the state will cooperate with the federal investigators.
[The following excerpts are from the article titled, “Feds launch investigation into NC agency after coal ash spill”  in the Raleigh News and Observer with the link below:]
“Subpoenas were issued this week summoning officials from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Duke Energy to produce records before a federal grand jury scheduled to meet in Raleigh March 18-20. The subpoenas demand that DENR provide regulatory documents, including any correspondence with Duke since January 2010.”
“Over the past year, environmental groups have tried on at least three occasions to use the federal Clean Water Act to force Duke to clean out leaky coal ash dumps.”


“Amy Adams, N.C. campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices, issued the following statement: “While Duke Energy and DENR have clearly been shirking their responsibilities to adhere to environmental practices that would have protected the Dan River, a federal investigation raises the stakes considerably. We’ll be watching the process closely and, like citizens in North Carolina and Virginia who have been impacted by the coal ash spill, we’re eager to find out what was truly going on that caused this crisis.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Attendees of the Mining and Energy Commission meetings (including myself [Therese Vick])  have been raising the issue of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) political will to enforce the law.This is not unique to this new incarnation, but the expanded exemption of hundreds of DENR employees last summer, the changes in public record policy and the incessant pressure on DENR staff to perform (behave), are disturbing, to say the least.  The Oil and Gas industry has already been meddling with our regulatory and political process. With  complicit or at least compliant DENR leadership, problems in affected communities will be trivialized or downright ignored. How realistic is it to think that the most powerful industry in the world can be controlled? You have a better chance of finding Bigfoot.



In the above photo, “Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices, shows her hand covered with wet coal ash from the Dan River swirling in the background as state and federal environmental officials continued their investigations of a spill of coal ash into the river in Danville, Va., Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. Duke Energy estimates that up to 82,000 tons of ash has been released from a break in a 48-inch storm water pipe at the Dan River Power Plant in Eden N.C. on Sunday. GERRY BROOME — AP Photo”