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Duke Energy’s Lake Julian coal-fired power plant in Buncombe County

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the first-ever federal standards for the storage and disposal of coal ash aimed at protecting thousands of communities from the 140 million tons of ash pollution produced annually by America’s coal plants.

Coal ash, the toxic by-product that is left over after coal is burned, contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium and other health threatening substances. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash storage have been documented for decades, including increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, asthma, and other illnesses.

For years, environmental and public health organizations have called on the EPA and the Obama Administration to impose common-sense protections for retired and active coal ash sites that treat the disposal of this toxic waste stream with the same level of scrutiny as other dangerous substances.

In 2012, Western North Carolina Alliance joined several environmental organizations and an Indian tribe to obtain a court-ordered deadline for the coal ash rule.

“After coal ash disasters in Tennessee and North Carolina,” said WNCA’s French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson, “we welcome a coal ash rule that will start to take steps towards protecting the environment and our communities from toxic coal ash.”

However, WNCA and our Riverkeeper are disappointed that the standard allows utilities to continue disposing of coal ash in ponds and does not incorporate strong federal enforcement. The standard still leaves people to largely fend for themselves against powerful utility interests that have historically ignored public health in favor of delayed action.

Moving forward, WNCA and our coalition partners will use every tool available to strengthen this EPA safeguard, pressure state governments to do more to help communities suffering from ash pollution, and work with local residents to stand up to the utilities responsible for poisoning their water and air with this toxic industrial waste.

 

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From EPA:

Release Date: 12/19/2014

Contact Information: Press@epa.gov

Release Date: 12/19/2014

Common sense, pragmatic rules to protect against structural failure, water and air pollution


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the first national regulations to provide for the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals (coal ash) from coal-fired power plants. The final rule establishes safeguards to protect communities from coal ash impoundment failures, like the catastrophic Kingston, Tenn., spill in 2008, and establishes safeguards to prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal.

“EPA is taking action to protect our communities from the risk of mismanaged coal ash disposal units, and putting in place safeguards to help prevent the next catastrophic coal ash impoundment failure, which can cost millions for local businesses, communities and states,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “These strong safeguards will protect drinking water from contamination, air from coal ash dust, and our communities from structural failures, while providing facilities a practical approach for implementation.”

EPA has been studying the effects of coal ash disposal on the environment and public health for many years. In the wake of the failure of the TVA coal ash pond in Kingston, TN, EPA began a multi-year effort to help ensure the safety of the nation’s coal ash disposal facilities, including assessing more than 500 facilities across the country. Improperly constructed or managed coal ash disposal units have been linked to nearly 160 cases of harm to surface or ground water or to the air. EPA carefully evaluated more than 450,000 comments on the proposed rule, testimony from eight public hearings, and information gathered from three notices soliciting comment on new data and analyses.

Improperly constructed or managed coal ash disposal units have resulted in the catastrophic failure of surface impoundments, damages to surface water, groundwater and the air. The first federal requirements for impoundments and landfills to address these risks include:
·The closure of surface impoundments and landfills that fail to meet engineering and structural standards and will no longer receive coal ash;

· Reducing the risk of catastrophic failure by requiring regular inspections of the structural safety of surface impoundments;

· Restrictions on the location of new surface impoundments and landfills so that they cannot be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands and earthquake zones;

· Protecting groundwater by requiring monitoring, immediate cleanup of contamination, and closure of unlined surface impoundments that are polluting groundwater;

· Protecting communities using fugitive dust controls to reduce windblown coal ash dust;

· Requiring liner barriers for new units and proper closure of surface impoundments and landfills that will no longer receive CCRs.

In response to comments received on the proposal, the final rule makes a number of changes by providing greater clarity on technical requirements for coal ash landfills and surface impoundments under Subtitle D of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the nation’s primary law for regulating solid waste.

Implementation of these technical requirements will be reported through comprehensive and regular disclosure to states, and communities to enable them to monitor and oversee these requirements. The rule requires that power plant owners and operators provide detailed information to citizens and states to fully understand how their communities may be impacted. The rule sets out new transparency requirements, including recordkeeping and reporting requirements, as well as the requirement for each facility to post specific information to a publicly-accessible website. This will provide the public with information such as annual groundwater monitoring results, and corrective action reports, coal ash fugitive dust control plans, and closure completion notifications.

This final rule also supports the responsible recycling of coal ash by distinguishing safe, beneficial use from disposal. In 2012, almost 40 percent of all coal ash produced was recycled (beneficially used), rather than disposed. Beneficial use of coal ash can produce positive environmental, economic and performance benefits such as reduced use of virgin resources, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced cost of coal ash disposal, and improved strength and durability of materials.

EPA is committed to working closely with our state partners on implementation of this rule. To ease implementation and harmonize the regulatory requirements for coal ash landfills and surface impoundments, EPA encourages states to adopt the federal minimum criteria, revise their Solid Waste Management Plans (SWMPs) and submit these revisions to EPA for approval. A revised and approved SMWP will signal EPA’s opinion that the state SWMP meets the federal criteria.

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JoinHendersonvilleSolarFarm_FLS the Western North Carolina Alliance on Saturday, Jan. 31 for a tour of FLS Energy’s solar farm in Hendersonville!

Frank Marshall, of  FLS Energy , will show off the grounds and give all his insight on NC’s solar energy industry. Come to get all your pressing solar questions answers!!

Where: FLS Energy’s solar farm at 67 Laycock Road, Hendersonville NC

When: Saturday, January 31st from 10-11 am

Carpool: 9:15 a.m., Earth Fare at 66 Westgate Parkway, Asheville NC

Wear: We will be outside, so please dress warmly, and wear walking shoes!

Bring: Water, camera, and your questions!

Free! All Ages! Registration Required HERE

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It’s time for WNCA’s annual NWEI discussion course! Join us this winter for Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice & Sustainability to address the connections between three of society’s most pressing challenges, and become equipped to promote peace, justice, and sustainability within our community.

Participants read each week’s material (which may include brief articles, book excerpts and/or links to online content) on their own. During each session, group members take turns facilitating by leading others through discussion questions provided in the course book.

 

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PARTICIPANTS IN THIS SIX-SESSION DISCUSSION COURSE WILL:

• Be introduced to values, visions, and practical actions they can take toward a more peaceful, just and sustainable world.

• Become aware of entrenched values and assumptions that reinforce destructive practices and unhealthy systems.

 

We will meet every Thursday for 6 weeks, Jan 22 – Feb 26 2015, from 6-7:30 pm at the Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar.

To register for the course is $45 for WNCA members, and $60 for non-members (includes 1 year WNCA membership!). Your books are included, and will be distributed during the first meeting.

The registration deadline is Wednesday, January 14th 2015.

Please Register & Pay HERE

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Release Date: Dec 16, 2014

Contact(s): Stevin Westcott, (828) 257-4215

NEBO, N.C., Dec. 16, 2014The U.S. Forest Service and a spectrum of partners collaborated to help restore close to 6,000 acres in the Grandfather Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, through the Grandfather Restoration Project over the past year.

“I commend our partners for their ongoing hard work and dedication to the Grandfather Restoration Project,” said Grandfather District Ranger Nick Larson. “This year’s accomplishments illustrate the power of leveraged resources and how great things can be achieved when diverse partners collaborate in a single landscape.”

Lisa Jennings, program coordinator of the Grandfather Restoration Project, assists in conducting a prescribed burn on the Grandfather Ranger District. (photo courtesy Adam Warwick, The Nature Conservancy)[Photo: Lisa Jennings, program coordinator of the Grandfather Restoration Project, assists in conducting a prescribed burn on the Grandfather Ranger District. (photo courtesy Adam Warwick, The Nature Conservancy)]

The Grandfather Restoration Project is a 10-year effort that increases prescribed burning and other management practices on 40,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District. The project is restoring the fire-adapted forest ecosystems, benefiting a variety of native plants and wildlife, increasing stream health, controlling non-native species and protecting hemlocks against hemlock woolly adelgids. The project is one of 10 projects announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in February 2012, under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program.

In fiscal year 2014, the Grandfather Restoration Project established forest vegetation on 44 acres, improved forest vegetation on 339 acres, restored or enhanced 5,345 acres of terrestrial habitat and 2.5 miles of stream habitat. The Project also treated for invasive species on 135 acres, restored watershed health on two acres, maintained or improved 50 miles of trails, and reduced hazardous fuels on 3,439 acres.

Project partners provided the following contributions in fiscal year 2014:

  • The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission improved early successional habitat (young forests) by mowing 648 acres, treating 44 acres of invasive species, conducting 13 different surveys for land and water species, stocking 3,000 brown trout , clearing 1.5 miles of fire break, performing prescribed burning on adjacent lands, and collecting data on black bears.
  • The Wilderness Society provided 672 hours studying the fire ecology of the Linville Gorge, 20 hours on shortleaf pine restoration planning, and 651 hours on a variety of trail work.
  • The N.C. Forest Service assisted with prescribed burns on the Grandfather Ranger District and conducted burns on adjacent private lands.
  • Western North Carolina Alliance provided 39 hours for shortleaf pine restoration project development, 48 hours in vegetation monitoring and 50 hours in invasive species monitoring.
  • The Nature Conservancy spent 26 hours assisting with prescribed burns, 40 hours on public outreach, and 97 hours on project development for shortleaf pine restoration.
  • Wild South volunteers spent 600 hours removing, by hand, non-native species in the Linville Gorge Wilderness.
  • N.C. Department of Transportation provided funding for bridge replacement at Catawba Falls recreation area.

A critical component of the Grandfather Restoration Project is monitoring the effectiveness of restoration management practices. Partners monitor all aspects of the project, from prescribed burning to invasive species treatment effectiveness. Monitoring efforts following prescribed burns show a 90 percent reduction in evergreen shrub cover (hazardous fuels), as well as an increase in wildlife use and diversity. Invasive species monitoring shows 70 percent average effectiveness in killing target plant species during initial treatments.

“The Grandfather Ranger District and its partners are making great progress toward our restoration goals, treating more than 18,000 acres since the start of the project,” said Larson.

Additional partners involved in the project include: Foothills Conservancy, Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network, North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Land of Sky Regional Council, National Wild Turkey Federation, Southern Research Station, National Park Service, Appalachian Designs, Western Carolina University, Trout Unlimited, Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Wilson Creek, Forest Stewards, Quality Deer Management Association, and the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.

 

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AppleTreeSale2014-2015 (1)Heritage apple trees are a tasty reminder of American history. 

In many parts of the country, a parcel of land wasn’t considered occupied until there were several fruiting apple trees on it. 

This year’s heritage apple tree sale includes some of the oldest known apples in North America including some – Dula Beauty, King Luscious and Magnum Bonum – that originated in North Carolina.

This year’s sale includes more than 25 varieties of apple trees as well as native blueberries and elderberries, figs, American hazelnuts and hybrid chestnuts. Growing trees in your own backyard is the perfect way to remember our history and enjoy the fruits of your gardening labor while supporting environmental efforts to protect our mountains.

Fruit trees can be ordered now and will likely run out before the pickup dates of Feb. 13-14.

To see a full list of available varieties and to place a pre-order, CLICK HERE.

All pre-ordered trees must be picked up at our Hendersonville office, located at 611 North Church St., #101,  on Friday, Feb. 13 (4-7 p.m.) and Saturday, Feb. 14 (9 a.m. to noon).

Unclaimed trees will be sold at noon on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also, Useful Plants Nursery, a local permaculture nursery specializing in edible and medicinal plants, will bring a variety of interesting plants for purchase on pick-up days.  

To request a specific plant for your landscape, you may contact the nursery at www.usefulplants.org before Feb. 6.  A portion of their sale proceeds will go to support our work in Henderson County.

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Coming Jan. 23 and Jan. 27!

MountainTrue presents two live shows celebrating the life and adventures of John Muir, an early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, have been read by millions. The Muir shows have also toured throughout the country to universities, parks, museums, wilderness and environmental organizations from Washington D.C. to Hawaii. 

Buy tickets HERE for the Jan. 23 showing at Flat Rock Playhouse.

Tickets for the Jan. 27 show will be available only by purchasing them directly from Asheville Community Theatre.

Jan. 23: The Tramp & The Roughrider 2015JohnMuir_PostcardB2sm

Flat Rock Playhouse
MoutainTrue invites you to journey back to May 1903 to an evening around the campfire in Yosemite Valley with America’s best known conservationist, John Muir, and President Theodore Roosevelt. Hear them spar over environmental and wilderness issues and witness the conversation that helped lead Roosevelt to establish 200 million acres of wilderness, five new national parks, and 55 wildlife preserves during his tenure.

2015JohnMuir_PostcardF3smJan. 27: The Spirit of John Muir

Asheville Community Theatre (Tickets for this show MUST be purchased directly from ACT)
This show is  a fun romp through some of the very best of Muir’s grand, thrilling adventures in his beloved western wilderness. “The Perilous Night on Mount Shasta,” with Muir freezing in the midst of a howling blizzard while simultaneously being boiled and blistered in hot springs, his astonishing ride down a Yosemite Valley canyon wall on a snow avalanche, and climbing the 500′ wall of the winter ice cone beneath the Yosemite Fall, encounters with a mighty Yosemite earthquake, dangerous Alaskan ice crevasses, snow blindness, and much more – these are only a few of the amazing (and true) adventures – all liberally salted with Muir’s wilderness philosophy. This show’s theme revolves around the health and invigoration one acquires when one fully and joyfully engages wildness. 

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paddletrailcampWestern North Carolina Alliance needs volunteers paddle with our French Broad Riverkeeper and plant live trees along the riverbank as we go.

Each tree we plant will help to restore the bank’s stability and prevent sediment erosion into the French Broad River.

These “live-staking” outings will be from 9:30 a.m.—5 p.m. Dec. 17.

WNCA will provide the boats (but if you have your own, you’re welcome to bring it) trees and tools.  Just bring yourself and your lunch – and please wear what you need to be comfortable for a day on the river.

All of the outings will start at Headwaters Outfitters, located at 25 Parkway Road in Rosman. We’ll shuttle from there to the river put-in at Champion Park.

If you want to join us or want more information, please contact Assistant French Broad Riverkeeper Anna Alsobrook at Anna@WNCA.org. You may also call her at (828) 258-8737, ext. 212.

November 25, 2014
Re: Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

On behalf of the members and board of the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA), I [Co-Director Julie Mayfield], submit these comments on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule (CPP).

We fully support the CPP as a commonsense plan to address coal-fired power plants, the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

These rules are urgently needed to protect the planet as a whole and specifically the ecosystems,
communities and local economies of Western North Carolina.

Click here to download and read the full letter.

 

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We are ‘MountainTrue’!

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At the Nov. 20 Annual Fall Gathering, the boards and members of WNCA, ECO and Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance enthusiastically agreed to move forward as one united organization: MountainTrue. The merger and name change will become official on Jan. 1, 2015.
We are very grateful to the more than 100 people who came to celebrate this historic moment with us and to all those who took part in the voting process that has allowed us to move forward as a larger, stronger regional organization. Together, we are committed to protecting the natural resources of North Carolina’s beautiful mountain communities.
Thank you for your support and membership!  
We look forward to many more years of partnership and success. And we pledge to always remain loyal to, devoted to, and protective of our mountains.

We are MountainTrue!

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