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What was Georgia Power doing at Plant Branch on New Year’s weekend?

This article is reposted by permission from Rural and Progressive. See the original here.

Katherine Helms Cummings is an environmental and rural health advocate.

Georgia’s coal ash monitoring laws are awfully easy on power companies. The companies get to monitor their heaping piles of coal ash waste and ponds themselves.

Thank goodness the Altamaha Riverkeeper (aided by Tonya Bonitatibus, the Savannah Riverkeeper) checked up on the coal ash ponds at Plant Blanch, which abut Lake Sinclair, last weekend.

There was a lot of activity there on Saturday, with large trucks in and out at the ponds and generators buzzing due to the tremendous amount of rain recently.

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NC DEQ fails to rate the risk of most Duke Energy’s coal ash

Homeowners living near Duke Energy’s Buck power plant, pictured above, have found elevated levels of contaminants in their drinking water. (© Waterkeeper Alliance)

Originally published by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is required by state law to act today (New Year’s Eve) to rate the risks posed by Duke Energy’s leaking coal ash sites across the state. This requirement is contained in the same state statute that designated four of Duke Energy’s 14 leaking coal ash sites as high risk sites requiring the coal ash to be removed to safer dry, lined storage. In a statement regarding today’s announcement by DEQ, Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who represents citizen groups in court that have been seeking cleanup of the sites, said:

“Once again, the DEQ political leadership has failed to do its job to protect North Carolina’s clean water and communities. The Coal Ash Management Act requires DEQ no later than today to issue risk ratings for all of Duke Energy’s remaining coal ash lagoons, but the DEQ leadership has failed to do so. While its own professional staff was able to determine the risk of these dangerous sites and concluded that almost all of Duke Energy’s coal ash sites pose a high risk to North Carolina’s communities, DEQ determined that none are high risk contrary to science and common sense. Almost two years have passed since the Dan River spill and three years have passed since conservation groups woke up DEQ by threatening legal action to force a cleanup of these sites. Yet DEQ’s leadership still won’t take action to protect North Carolina. Politics has trumped science and common sense.

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Conservation Groups Challenge NC Environmental Agency’s Sweetheart Settlement with Duke Energy over Widespread Coal Ash Contamination

Press Release from the Southern Environmental Law Center

Contact: D.J. Gerken, SELC, 828-258-2023 or Frank Holleman, SELC, 864-979-9431 or

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—In a legal challenge filed today, conservation groups across North Carolina asked the state Superior Court to overturn approval of a settlement between Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality over the utility’s coal ash pollution throughout the state. Duke had appealed a monetary penalty at a single site, but the state’s settlement agreement abandons enforcement of groundwater pollution laws at every one of Duke Energy’s fourteen leaking coal ash sites where lawsuits are pending and even provides immunity for future violations.

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Coal Ash’s Unhealthy Glow – Lisa Evans/Earthjustice

DAVID OLAH/ISTOCK PHOTO. Scientists have found that coal ash has up to 10 times more naturally occurring radioactive materials than the parent coal it comes from.

by Lisa Evans, Sr. Administrative Counsel, Earthjustice

Burning coal for energy leaves behind toxic coal ash waste, and that waste may be even more harmful than researchers suspected. In a paper published today inEnvironmental Science and Technology, scientists and engineers from Duke University and the University of Kentucky found coal ash has up to 10 times more naturally occurring radioactive materials than the parent coal it comes from. Coal ash also has up to five times more radioactivity than average soil in the U.S.

Particularly alarming are the study findings that radioactivity may exceed safe levels for human exposure if coal ash is not isolated from water and kept from blowing away in the wind. The consequences of long-term exposure to radioactivity are dire—including life-threatening diseases such as lymphoma, bone cancer, leukemia and aplastic anemia. Cancer-causing radium in ash can remain in the lungs for months after inhalation, gradually entering the bloodstream and depositing in bones and teeth for the lifetime of the individual.

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EPA’s Huge Water Pollution Decision and Why They Need to Get it Right

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an enormously impactful decision to make. By the end of September 2015, EPA is set to update its 30-year-old guidelines for how much pollution states can permit power plants to dump into our water, called effluent limitation guidelines or the ELG rule. EPA could issue a weak, ineffective rule or a powerful rule that could be a major turning point for public health and water quality. Please urge the Obama Administration and EPA to issue a strong ELG rule!

Several options for regulating these toxic discharges have been proposed by EPA and are currently under consideration by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). SACE brought a delegation of water advocates from the Southeast to meet with OMB staff last week.

The problem
Every day, power plants across the country are using our public waters like an open sewer. Power plants dump 5.5 billion pounds of contaminated wastewater directly into our rivers, lakes, and bays every single year. They discharge more toxic waste than the next nine most polluting industries combined and create 50% of all toxic pollution dumped into our waterways. 40% of this pollution is within five miles of public drinking water supply intakes. more »

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