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Western North Carolina Alliance presents its official comments on the draft rules for the management of shale gas exploration and development in North Carolina. This letter supplements oral comments submitted by WNCA Co-Director Julie Mayfield at the Mining and Energy Commission public hearing on Sept. 12, 2014 in Cullowhee, on behalf of the members and board of WNCA.

Read or download WNCA’s letter here.

Submit YOUR comments on fracking before the 9/30 deadline here! 

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Join the Western North Carolina Alliance for a VIP pre-concert party at The Orange Peel’s St. Paul and the Broken Bones show.

Your $60 ticket includes a meet-and-greet with the band, great food, tasty Sweetwater beer and a ticket to the show. VIP party is from 6-8pm.

Click HERE to book your spot at the party!

Proceeds will benefit our French Broad Riverkeeper program, which serves as the primary protector and defender of the French Broad River watershed in Western North Carolina.

 

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Join us from 4-6 p.m. Oct. 5 at The Mothlight and play election-related trivia — with prizes for best team name and winning team!

You can also register to vote and get information about the voting process and rules to be ready for this election season.

This is a nonpartisan free event open to the public. Bring your friends! WNCA is co-sponsoring this event with the Campaign for Southern Equality.

Click here for more information.

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N.C. coal ash bill falls short

asheville-coal-plant

Duke Energy’s coal-fired plant in Asheville

Legislature’s coal ash bill ensures cleanup only at Asheville and three other sites

While Asheville and three other sites across the state are winners in the coal ash bill adopted by the North Carolina legislature, overall the House and Senate have failed to deliver the comprehensive coal ash cleanup plan they promised at the outset of this legislative session.

The bill makes strides with regard to these four disposal sites and on the future production and reuse of coal ash, but the bill could allow existing coal ash to remain in place at 10 facilities across North Carolina, where it’s polluting rivers, streams and groundwater.

The bill also attempts to roll back existing law that imposes clean up obligations on Duke Energy, made clear in a judge’s ruling earlier this year that explicitly gave state environmental officials the authority to force Duke to take immediate action to eliminate sources of groundwater contamination.

“The French Broad River is one of the few real winners in this bill,” said Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper at the Western North Carolina Alliance. “The bill requires the coal ash lagoons at Duke Energy’s Asheville plant to be excavated and the ash moved to a lined facility that will stop it from contaminating ground water and the French Broad River. That’s great, but other communities in the state with coal ash ponds, including those around the Cliffsideplant in Rutherford County, aren’t assured of the same protections.”

The bill requires Duke Energy to move ash from the Dan River, Riverbend, Sutton and Asheville facilities into lined landfills away from waterways. Duke had already publically committed to move ash at these four sites, three of which are sites where environmental groups threatened to sue Duke Energy and the fourth, Dan River, was the site of a massive coal ash spill in February.

The Alliance, along with the Sierra Club and the Waterkeeper Alliance and represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, initiated legal action at the Asheville plant early in 2013 after years of water monitoring and urging that the state and the federal Environmental Protection Agency take action. The Alliance is also party to litigation on Duke Energy’s Cliffside plant.

“We took legal action because the state refused to step up. In the wake of the Dan River spill, we hoped the legislature would impose strong cleanup requirements. But this bill doesn’t require Duke Energy to do anything to clean up coal ash beyond what it has already pledged to do,” Carson said. “Given the opportunity the legislature had, that isn’t much progress.”

The bill leaves decisions about clean up at Duke Energy’s other 10 coal ash disposal sites to the discretion of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and a newly created coal ash commission whose members are appointed by the legislature and the governor. These unlined coal ash pits are leaching arsenic, chromium, mercury, lead, cadmium and boron into rivers, streams and groundwater.

The final bill was amended to add language aimed at better protecting groundwater at these sites, but it is unclear how effective it will actually be when implemented.

“DENR has worked hand and hand with Duke Energy to prevent cleanup of coal ash pollution for years, despite full knowledge of the problems. Granting this level of discretion to an agency with a history of putting the interests of Duke Energy above the public is a prescription for failure,” said Julie Mayfield, co-director at the Alliance.

“And in allowing for the possibility that some coal ash sites will be left in place in unlined pits, the legislature is attempting to roll back existing clean up requirements,” Mayfield said. “Why would our elected leaders put fewer requirements on Duke and leave communities across the state at risk? Every community deserves to be protected like Asheville.”

Also of great concern, the bill gives Duke Energy amnesty for leaks from its coal ash dams that flow directly into streams and rivers. Rather than requiring Duke to fix its leaking dams, the bill mirrors the sweetheart deal Duke negotiated with DENR last year – a deal DENR later withdrew – that shields Duke by permitting these uncontrolled discharges of contaminated wastewater. “The legislature should require Duke Energy clean up its leaking coal ash dams, not allow DENR to paper over Duke’s pollution,” Carson said.

On the positive side, the bill requires Duke Energy to transition from wet coal ash disposal to dry ash disposal at all of its facilities by 2019. That should reduce the likelihood of future contamination and the likelihood of a catastrophic dam failure.

The bill also imposes requirements on the use of coal ash as structural fill, similar to those in place at the Asheville airport project that has been using ash from the Asheville coal plant for several years. These requirements only apply to large coal ash fill projects, however, not all fill projects. And there are other positive provisions around public notification of spills, providing drinking water to impacted families, and groundwater monitoring.

“These are important, positive steps forward that will help prevent future contamination and protect impacted communities,” Mayfield said. “The legislature would have done better to adopt a similarly strong approach to dealing with existing contamination.”

The final bill also tightens a provision that allows Duke Energy to obtain a variance to clean up deadlines in the bill. The version adopted by the House had no criteria for granting the variance, allowing for the possibility that Duke could obtain variances at all of their sites and never actually clean up anything. The final bill limits the number of times Duke can request variances and time limits the deadline extensions.

butterflyhike2013Monarch butterflies are migrating through WNC! Join us from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 4 to catch a glimpse!

Where: North Mills Recreation Area, Pisgah National Forest

Carpool: Meet at Earth Fare in the Westgate Shopping Center at 9 a.m.

Hike: Moderate four-mile loop with an initial climb. We’ll lunch on an outcrop, then descend the second half.

Wear: Sturdy clothes and shoes

Bring: Water and lunch

Cost: FREE!  All ages are welcome, but we have a maximum capacity of 15 hikers.

Registration is required. To register TODAY, click here.

Categories Events Calendar, Trips & Outings
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Monday, Sept. 29 – “Faith, Climate Science, & Our Moral Obligation Presentation” – 7-8:30 p.m. – The Parish of St. Eugene, North Asheville – Dr. Deke Arndt, parishioner and climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, will speak. For the last several years, Dr. Arndt has been co-editor for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and was instrumental in drafting the federal government’s recent climate report. He will share his personal revelation of our moral obligation to address climate change. This program is open to the public and the church is located on Culvern St, North Asheville behind the Merrimon Avenue Ingles. For more information, email Connie Mitchell at cmitchell28@charter.net.

Tuesday, Sept. 30 – “Advocating with Compassion” and N.C. General Assembly 101 Webinar – 12-1 p.m. – Online – Check out NCIPL’s Inaugural Webinar! To register and/or for more info, click here.

Monday, Oct. 6 – Next CCAWNC Meeting/Local Food & Faith Potluck! – 6-8 p.m., Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church Community Garden, Downtown Asheville – RSVP and more information here!


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Job Description

Help turn out voters in North Carolina! Western North Carolina Alliance is seeking hard-working individuals for multiple phone bank positions to contact and turn out voters in Western North Carolina for the 2014 general election. This is a strictly non-partisan effort to reach underrepresented and historically disenfranchised voters in Western North Carolina and encourage them to vote.

Through this project, Western North Carolina Alliance will call thousands of voters and urge them to vote in this year’s election by providing them with non-partisan information about where and when to vote. In addition, we hope to engage these voters in our work to protect Western North Carolina’s forests, clean air and clean water.

  • Location: Asheville, NC
  • Close Date: Oct. 6, 2014
  • Hiring Organization: Western North Carolina Alliance
  • Contact Name: Joan Walker
  • Contact Email: Joan@WNCA.org

Responsibilities

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Calling targeted voters in WNC, having a brief conversation with them, and providing them with simple voting information such as where and when to vote
  • Identifying voters who are concerned about environmental issues and giving them the opportunity to get involved with environmental action in WNC
  • Making hundreds of phone calls per night to target voters
  • Accurately recording information in a computer database after completing each call

Logistics and Requirements

  • Dates: These are part-time, temporary positions. Callers will work from phone banking will begin between October 13-Oct. 20 (exact date TBD) to Nov.  3.
  • Schedule: Applicants must be available to work the scheduled phone bank times: Monday through Thursday from 5 – 9 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Sundays from 1 -5 p.m. There will be no work on Fridays.
  • Location: The phone bank will be located at the WNCA offices in downtown Asheville. Calls must be made from the phone bank location (calling from home is not an option).

Qualifications

Ideal candidate has:

  • Excellent communication skills and comfort speaking with strangers
  • Interest in environmental protection and other public interest issues
  • A proven work ethic and comfort with technology
  • Experience with phone banks, door-to-door work, or public speaking and outreach
  • Strong interpersonal skills and outgoing personality

Salary/Compensation

$12/hour (expectation of about 24 hours worked per week).

Application Instructions

Deadline for applications: Oct. 6, 2014. Email a resume and brief cover letter, detailing relevant qualifications and why you want this position, to WNCA Campaign Coordinator, Joan Walker: Joan@WNCA.org  with subject line ATTN: GOTV Caller

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Duke Energy’s Asheville-area coal-fired power plant

From the Wall Street Journal, Sept. 16, 2014

Draft Regulations Aim to Control Power-Plant Carbon Emissions

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration said Tuesday it is allowing more time for the public to weigh in on draft regulations controlling carbon emissions from hundreds of fossil-fuel power plants across the country after a majority of senators called for the extension.

The Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it was extending by 45 days its public-comment period that was originally scheduled to end Oct. 16.

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last week, 53 senators, including several Democrats up for re-election this year, urged the administration to allow 60 more days; the comment period was originally 120 days. The new closing date is Dec. 1.

Announced on June 2, the proposed rule seeks to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants 30% by 2030 based on emissions levels from 2005. EPA has set different standards for each state, based upon regional energy mixes and what the agency has deemed each state can do to shift to cleaner sources of electricity.

The agency is still scheduled to issue a final rule by its original deadline of June 2015, EPA Acting Administrator for Air and Radiation Janet McCabe said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “Because of the strong amount of interest we’ve seen from stakeholders, we are announcing today that we are extending the comment period for an additional 45 days,” Ms. McCabe said.

The regulations are the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s climate-change agenda and affect most detrimentally coal-fired power plants, which produce the most carbon emissions and provide about 40% of the nation’s electricity today.

EPA’s announcement Tuesday comes a week before Mr. Obama travels to New York City to participate in a United Nations summit where he is expected to lay out his administration’s climate-change agenda to world leaders.

Join more than 100 local volunteers and help sample local streams for water quality, starting with a day of training from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 21.

Learn to identify different kinds of aquatic insects and why they are important for healthy rivers and creeks. Adult volunteers will be trained in water quality sampling methods for use in a long-term monitoring project at sites in Haywood, Madison, Buncombe, Yancey and Mitchell counties. No experience is necessary.

Volunteer Expectations: Attend the training, then work in small groups with leaders to sample a minimum of two sites (only 2-3 hours for a group to sample one site), two times, in spring and in the fall.

Volunteer monitoring groups can be a focal point for community interaction, promote a sense of stewardship of local waterways, and empower residents to protect the quality of our mountain rivers and streams.

Information and instructional videos are available at www.eqilab.org.

For more information or to RSVP (required), please email Nicole at  eqilabstaff@gmail.com.

A $15-20 donation is requested, but is not required (to cover material costs). 

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 nofrackinginnc

WNCA’s  official statement/comments on proposed fracking rules in NC:

Read or download the statement here.

WNC fracking news updates:

Sylva Herald: Opponents dominate WCU fracking hearing

Asheville Citizen-TimesLarge crowd turns thumbs down on fracking rules

WLOS TV: Fracking debate at WCU

WNCN: Hundreds cram last NC fracking hearing in west

The concern about fracking in the mountains was galvanized by the passage this summer of Senate Bill 786, which lifted the moratorium on issuing state permits for hydraulic fracturing for gas.

Fracking is a process using high-pressure injection of water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas trapped in underground shale formations.

WNCA and our environmental partners are concerned about risks of fracking, including  the potential contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the potential migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface, the potential mishandling of waste, and the health effects of these.

The comment deadline is Sept 30.

CLICK HERE to send a comment NOW to oil&gas@ncdenr.gov

Or send a comment by mail to:

Mining & Energy Commission
ATTN: Oil and Gas Program
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612

Look for more information from us as the hearing date approaches.

  • Click here for updates and tips from Frack Free NC.
  • Click here for updates from the policy blog of the N.C. Conservation Network.