On March 6th of this year, North Carolina Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway handed down a ruling that Duke Energy must immediately prevent toxins from their coal ash ponds from leaking into the water supply, and also that the energy giant had to develop a plan to clean up all of the groundwater that they had contaminated in the state. Ridgeway said that the state and the energy company had been misinterpreting a state law for decades in order to avoid cleaning up their toxic mess.
Judge Ridgeway’s ruling gave the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission (EMC) the authority to hold Duke accountable for years of pollution. And just when it looked like Duke Energy might finally have to pay for their environmental crimes, something magical happened for the dirty energy company: The EMC appealed Ridgeway’s ruling.
Rather than doing the job they were ordered to do by a judge, the state agency sided with Duke Energy in appealing the ruling, claiming that the state’s environmental laws do not give the agency the authority to order a cleanup of contaminated water supplies.
The EMC isn’t reacting this way because they are too busy, or because they don’t have the resources to enforce the cleanup – they joined the appeal because Duke Energy owns the state government in North Carolina.
The EMC claims to operate independently from the influence of state government, but they are directly appointed by the government. The board consists of 15 members appointed by Republican Governor Pat McCrory (8 appointments to the board), Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis, and Republican Senate leader Phil Berger (7 collective appointments to the board.) The common thread among these politicians is that their campaigns were all funded by Duke Energy and a host of other dirty energy heavyweights.