Duke Energy

Toxic Coal Ash Disposal Proves Costly and Hazardous, Duke Energy's Sutton Lake Contamination Questioned

A new report out from Wake Forest University concludes that coal ash waste from Duke Energy’s Sutton coal plant in Wilmington, NC is elevating levels of selenium pollution in nearby Sutton Lake. The lake, prized by fishermen for its largemouth bass population, has been contaminated, according to a study released today by Prof. Dennis Lemly, Research Associate Professor of Biology at Wake Forest, with high levels of selenium. Selenium has been linked to deformities in fish – including two-headed trout – and can cause a condition known as selenosis if people consume high enough doses in their food or drinking water.

Several conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which joined the University in announcing the findings, filed suit against Duke Energy Progress, Inc. this summer, arguing that pollution from the Sutton plant's coal ash is “killing a regional fishing lake and is threatening a community’s drinking water.”

The new report, which found that the coal ash pollution kills over 900,000 fish and deforms thousands more in Sutton Lake each year, is likely to bolster the plaintiffs' case in that suit.

The research also highlights one of the most fundamental problems with American energy policy: policy-makers and the public have been unwilling to recognize the true costs of the fuels we use to make electricity.

Ohio Clean Energy Still in Koch & ALEC Crosshairs

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog: The Witness.

Ohio is currently fighting this year's final battle in a nationally-coordinated attack on clean energy standard laws, implemented by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other groups belonging to the secretive corporate front group umbrella known as the State Policy Network (SPN).

Three States Pushing ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” - has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems. 

January hasn't even ended, yet ALEC has already planted its Environmental Literacy Improvement Act - which mandates a “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms - in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year. 

In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four statesan undeniable form of “big government” this “free market” organization decries in its own literature.

ALEC's “model bills” are written by and for corporate lobbyists alongside conservative legislators at its annual meetings. ALEC raises much of its corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry, which in turn utilizes ALEC as a key - though far from the only - vehicle to ram through its legislative agenda through in the states. 

The Fossil 47 Percent: Freeloading Energy Companies That Pay No Income Taxes

Mitt Romney has nothing but disdain for fossil fuel companies. At least those freeloaders that are “dependent on government” and “pay no income taxes.” This is true if you believe Romney's very own words and some very circular logic. Follow along:

According to Romney, his “job is is not to worry about” those 47 percent of Americans that don’t pay income taxes.

And of course we know that, according to Romney, “corporations are people,” too. So reason dictates that if a corporation isn’t paying income taxes, it’s not Mitt Romney’s job to worry about them.

Someone tell that to the 33 energy companies in the S&P 500 that paid either paid no income taxes at all or actually received a tax return last year.

Heritage Foundation Wastes No Time Spinning Court Ruling On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against plaintiffs yesterday in a lawsuit (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) brought by six states against several utility companies and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were attempting to force the utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that the emissions were a “public nuisance.” The Court unanimously declared that the judiciary should stay out of the matter because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama previously stated that he stood with the utility companies in this suit, as well as in a similar suit being decided in a lower court. The utility companies in the suit included Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Co, Excel Energy, and the aforementioned Tennessee Valley Authority.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation wasted no time yesterday in claiming that the Court’s ruling was a major blow to environmentalists, and managed to take a cheap shot at some of the liberal members of the court:

U.S. EPA Coal Ash Hearings Intensify, Tennessee Hearing Added Following Controversy

Reversing its embarrassing oversight, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has added one final public hearing on coal ash regulatory proposals, to be held fittingly in Tennessee, the state that suffered the worst coal ash disaster in U.S. history in December 2008.

An EPA spokesperson confirmed that the final public hearing will take place the week of October 25th in Knoxville, Tennessee, although the exact date and location have yet to be announced.

So far, the public hearings on proposed coal ash regulations have been well-attended. ENS reported that the Dallas hearing last Wednesday was “packed” with “hundreds of residents from four states… urging the agency to adopt the stronger of two plans to regulate the waste from coal-fired power plants.”

But the intensity of the hearings picked up significantly today in Charlotte, NC, where the comments kicked off with a standing-room-only crowd ready for a marathon 13-plus hour hearing that could possibly stretch until midnight as hundreds of concerned residents, and a handful of coal industry lobbyists, voice their opinions.

The Inside Scoop on the "Climate War"

The first question I had for author Eric Pooley after I finished reading his new book, The Climate War, was whether he had set up hidden cameras all over Washington, DC.

He didn’t of course, but the insider information he weaves into his story about the ongoing battle for effective climate policy both in the United States and internationally will make even the insiders feel inadequate.

The Climate War puts you at the power-broker’s table, with much of the book following two main characters who have been at the center of the debate and the controversy around climate policy for more than a decade - Fred Krupp, Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund and Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy.

Both Krupp and Rogers are polarizing figures within the climate advocacy community, with Krupp being accused of “selling out” to the big corporate machine and willing to accept inadequate policy fixes and Rogers being accused of greenwashing the company he heads which is one of the largest electrical generation companies in the United States.

Krupp and Rogers act as the central characters and around them Pooley wraps the history of how we have gotten to where we are today on the issue of climate change, ending with the failure to come to an international climate treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark in late December, 2009.

We learn more about the “deniers” and the corporate flaks that back them, like Myron Ebell at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who toasted a crowd with Fiji Water because,

“It comes to you direct from Fiji, so it’s very energy inefficient: the only thing that could improve it would be to carbonate it.

PNM Resources Leaves U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Slams Stance On Climate

UPDATE: PNM Resources announced today that they are leaving the Chamber of Commerce entirely, not just the board position. See Pete Altman’s report on this explosive news at NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

Here is the new statement from PNM Resources announcing the departure:

At PNM Resources, we see climate change as the most pressing environmental and economic issue of our time. Given that view, and a natural limit on both company time and resources, we have decided that we can be most productive by working with organizations that share our view on the need for thoughtful, reasonable climate change legislation and want to push that agenda forward in Congress. These organizations include the Edison Electric Institute, the association of shareholder-owned electric companies, and the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of businesses and environmental organizations of which we are a founding member.

As a result, we have decided to let our membership in the U.S. Chamber lapse when it expires at the end of this year.

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New Mexico-based utility holding company PNM Resources announced this week that the company’s chief executive, Jeff Sterba, has given up his seat on the US Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.  The Chamber has attracted severe criticism lately from some of its member companies due to its backwards stance on global warming.

PNM issued a statement lambasting the Chamber for its recent antics:

“We strongly disagree with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on climate change legislation and particularly reject its recent theatrics calling for a ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ to put the science of climate change on trial. We believe the science is compelling enough to act sooner rather than later, and we support comprehensive federal legislation to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect customers against unreasonable cost increases,” said PNM Resources spokesman Don Brown.

Is Controversial Coal Lobby Front Group ACCCE On The Verge of Implosion?

Duke Energy announced today that it has left the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), the dirty coal front group lobbying against Congressional action on climate change.  Will other corporate members of the US Climate Action Partnership soon follow in Duke’s footsteps by leaving ACCCE?

According to a report in the National Journal today, Duke Energy “left the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy on Tuesday over differences with “influential member companies who will not support passing climate change legislation in 2009 or 2010.”

Duke did the right thing. The company realized that its membership in ACCCE did not square with its role with the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of industry and environmental groups working together to support federal action on climate change.  Duke also recently quit the National Association of Manufacturers in part because of that group’s work opposing climate legislation.

Duke Energy Quits Controversial Coal Lobby Front Group

In a potentially devastating move for the Washington, DC coal lobby, Duke Energy has announced that it is canceling its membership with the controversial American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

You’ll recall that ACCCE was the coal industry front group recently involved in the Bonner and Associates scandal where fake letters from influential organizations like the AARP were sent to members of Congress urging them to vote against the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill.

According to a report in the National Journal today, Duke Energy “left the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy on Tuesday over differences with “influential member companies who will not support passing climate change legislation in 2009 or 2010.”

Josh Nelson at Enviroknow obtained a copy of Duke Energy’s talking points on the matter:

The following are talking points related to Duke Energy withdrawing from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which Duke Energy has been a member of since the fall of 2007.

· While some individual members of ACCCE are working to pass climate change legislation, we believe ACCCE is constrained by influential member companies who will not support passing climate change legislation in 2009 or 2010.

· This became increasingly apparent during and after the debate on the Waxman/Markey legislation in the U.S. House in recent months.

· This is not consistent with Duke Energy’s work to pass economy-wide and cost effective climate change legislation as soon as possible.

· Therefore, effective Sept. 1, 2009, Duke Energy resigned from ACCCE

I expect there will be more moves like this in the near future as energy companies begin to realize that siding with front groups like ACCCE put them on the wrong side of the clean energy issue and the downside of being associated with such a group far outweigh any benefits.

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