• Biden Administration Announces Crackdown on Toxic Coal Ash Pollution

    By: Earth Justice, January 11 For the first time, the federal government is enforcing rules that require the coal industry to clean up toxic coal ash waste. This pollution can leak into groundwater and drinking water sources. Earthjustice was deeply involved in passing the original coal ash rules as part of our mission to secure clean air and drinking water for all. Since then, we've been fighting in court to make sure the government upholds them. Coal ash is the leading source of water contamination in the U.S.  Coal ash contains a long list of toxic chemicals, including arsenic, radium, and other carcinogens, as well as several metals that can impair children’s developing brains. There are 738 regulated coal ash dump sites in the U.S. Coal ash ponds hold enough ash to fill train cars that circle the earth more than 5 times over. According to analysis of the industry’s own test results, 91 percent of coal plants severely polluted the underlying groundwater to levels that exceed federal safe standards for drinking water. Coal plants are disproportionately located in communities where people suffer higher incidences of cancer, asthma and more. The EPA just told several coal plants they must follow federal rules about how coal ash is managed.  On January 11 the EPA responded to nine power plants that applied to delay closure of their toxic ash ponds. The EPA did not grant any of the nine applications: it rejected three outright, found four incomplete and one ineligible, and indicated it would only conditionally approve one application after compliance violations were resolved. This is the first time the EPA is interpreting and enforcing the federal government’s rules on coal ash since those rules were passed in 2015. The Trump administration tried to roll back the rules, even after a federal court sided with Earthjustice and ordered the government to strengthen coal ash regulations. Most coal facilities have taken measures to hide toxic coal ash contamination and leave their plants in a condition that will permanently plague local communities with hazardous chemicals. The EPA needs to reverse this course and hold utilities responsible for cleanup and safe closure of toxic ash ponds. Today marks the first step of this process. The EPA’s decisions will have wide application and set a precedent for the hundreds of U.S. coal plants and the coal ash ponds and landfills they manage. [View a map of coal plants contaminating groundwater] The EPA’s decisions establish that:  Coal ash ponds can’t be closed with ash sitting IN groundwater. Across the nation, at least 150 ash ponds are within five feet of groundwater, with a lot of those sitting in direct contact with the water. Leaving ponds of toxic waste in contact with groundwater creates never-ending leaching of dangerous chemicals like arsenic, cobalt, cadmium, lead and radium, which can cause cancer and neurological harm. Coal plant operators must clean up groundwater contaminated by coal ash and cannot get away with “do-nothing” solutions that simply wait for the toxic metals to be diluted or flow into the nearest drinking water well or surface water. Coal plant operators must openly and honestly determine the extent of water contamination caused by coal ash at their plants and can no longer hide behind intentionally false sampling and analysis that conceals the true extent of the poisoned groundwater. Read the article on Earth Justice


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  • NC governor vetoes bill that would keep local governments from banning natural gas

    By: Adam Wagner, Raleigh News & Observer December 9, 2021 Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a bill Thursday that would have prevented local governments from banning natural gas in new construction and limited public information about drinking water. No local governments in North Carolina have moved to ban natural gas from new construction, but some governments in California and the Northeast have. That led to a nationwide push by the natural gas industry to enact state laws preventing future bans, which have now been enacted in at least 20 states. “This legislation undermines North Carolina’s transition to a clean energy economy that is already bringing in thousands of good paying jobs,” Cooper said in a statement. “It also wrongly strips local authority and hampers public access to information about critical information that impacts the health and well-being of North Carolinians.” For House Bill 220 to become law, 72 members of the N.C. House of Representatives and 30 members of the N.C. Senate would need to vote to override Cooper’s veto. When the bill returned to the House for concurrence in late November, it passed 57-46. Environmental groups said the legislation would prevent future action by local governments to curb the impacts of climate change, while Republicans who supported the legislation said it would protect consumers’ ability to choose the source for their heating and appliances. “The heavy hand of government has no place in the personal decisions North Carolinians make for their households,” Rep. Dean Arp, a Union County Republican who is among HB 220’s primary sponsors, said in a written statement. Elsewhere in the country, banning natural gas is part of the effort to “electrify everything,” shifting cooking and cleaning to electric stoves and heat pumps. The thinking is that as electricity continues to be increasingly generated by renewable sources like solar and wind, electrified homes will contribute less to climate change than those with appliances and heat powered by natural gas. The NC Home Builders Association was among the trade groups supporting the passage of HB 220. An association lobbyist previously told The News & Observer that the organization was worried that banning natural gas in construction could cause prices to increase and limit consumers’ energy options. The Natural Resources Defense Council, which has opposed similar legislation nationwide, praised Cooper’s veto. In a written statement, Luiz Martinez, the NRDC’s Asheville-based director of Southeast energy, said, “North Carolina must be able to pursue new policies to combat climate change, create clean energy jobs, and make our communities healthier — and HB220 would have prevented that.” Together, North Carolina’s commercial and residential buildings were responsible for the equivalent of 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2017, according to the N.C. Greenhouse Gas Emissions report released in January 2019. That was about 7.3% of the state’s gross emissions that year. In a written statement on Nov. 29, June Blotnick, the executive director of CleanAIRE NC, said, “City and county governments have been the vanguard of fighting climate change. This bill is a swipe at their ability to protect their constituencies.” A public records provision in the vetoed bill would prevent the public from obtaining detailed plans and vulnerability information about electricity generation or distribution; treatment or distribution of water; and wastewater outfalls. Environmental groups were worried that the language in HB 220 would prevent the public from obtaining detailed information about drinking water treatment or the locations of lead pipes. In a written statement, Cynthia Satterfield, the N.C. Sierra Club’s state director, said, “We support safeguarding our critical infrastructure, but we also support the public’s right to know how its water is being treated, and to have adequate information to provide comment on infrastructure projects.” The public records exemptions were originally introduced in House Bill 911. As the bill made its way through the House, a bipartisan group of legislators worked together to remove the wastewater collection and outfall exemptions. They also clarified that information about lead service lines would remain public. But HB 911 has stalled in the Senate for months, and the Senate added the original exemptions to HB 220. That raised some concerns among a bipartisan group of legislators in the House and, evidently, with Cooper. Read the article at Raleigh News & Observer


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  • NEW REPORT: A Pandemic’s Impact: Utility Disconnections, Evictions & Houselessness

    Clean Water for NC has been involved in advocating for low-income North Carolinians against utility rate increases for years, and we saw new concerns emerge with COVID’s significant financial hardship for many families nationally and in North Carolina. Staff, along with volunteer Lee Barnes, explored the nuances and impacts of the pandemic on utility insecurity, eviction insecurity, and houselessness in the U.S., and specifically North Carolina, during COVID-19.  Read the Report: "A Pandemic's Impact" The Utility and eviction moratoria are discussed in the context of race and class, especially considering access to utilities and reasonably priced rent before the pandemic as compared to during. The nature of utility shut-offs and why utility access is so important during a pandemic is covered in some detail, and there is discussion of private vs. public water utilities. We examine types of evictions and the legal nature of these evictions, along with the geographic patterns of evictions in the United States. The emotional, financial, and medical impacts of houselessness on Americans, especially during the pandemic, and especially during the climate crisis, are explored, as well as their racial context. We also include resources and highlight organizations providing assistance.  Clean Water for NC aims to demonstrate our commitment to holistically considering the issues facing underserved communities. We hope state policies better protect BIPOC communities facing water disconnections, higher rates of eviction, and unhoused status. Read the Report: "A Pandemic's Impact"


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  • A bill stopping NC governments from banning natural gas heads to governor’s desk

    By: Adam Wagner, Raleigh News & Observer November 30, 2021 The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation Monday that would prevent local governments from banning the use of energy sources, like natural gas, in new construction or renovations. House Bill 220 will now head to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk. If he signs the bill, North Carolina would join 20 other states in passing similar legislation. No local governments in North Carolina have moved to ban the use of natural gas in construction, and environmental groups called for Cooper to veto the legislation moments after the House voted to concur. Supporters of the legislation…


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  • Celebrating EJ Victories! New ‘Clean Currents’ Newsletter!

    “Clean Currents” is our organization’s quarterly newsletter featuring our current campaign work, drinking water news and opportunities to get involved!


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  • The Most Detailed Map of Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution in the U.S.

    By: Al Shaw and Lylla Younes, ProPublicaNovember 2, 2021 It’s not a secret that industrial facilities emit hazardous air pollution. A new ProPublica analysis shows for the first time just how much toxic air pollution they emit — and how much the chemicals they unleash could be elevating cancer risk in their communities. ProPublica’s analysis of five years of modeled EPA data identified more than 1,000 toxic hot spots across the country and found that an estimated 250,000 people living in them may be exposed to levels of excess cancer…


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  • MVP Southgate & Continued Resistance

    This article is by CWFNC volunteer James Lopez Residents throughout the Appalachian states of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina have united in protest against Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the proposed MVP Southgate extension. MVP is a proposed natural gas pipeline that, if constructed, will be built through West Virginia and Virginia, with the Southgate extension cutting through southern Virginia and Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina. The MVP pipeline was first announced in 2014, with construction expected to be complete by 2019. The coronavirus pandemic, loss of required…


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  • Environmental lawsuit challenges NC biogas production from hog waste

    By: Arturo Pineda, Carolina Public PressOctober 22, 2021 A complaint about pollutants from hog farms filed last month with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleges that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s issuing of biogas permits to four hog farms will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color in the surrounding area.  North Carolina environmental and civil rights advocacy groups argue that if the biogas operations are allowed to operate, pollutants from the operations will affect the communities of color surrounding the hog farms.  Biogas production is…


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  • Powerless In The Pandemic: After Bailouts, Electric Utilities Chose Profits Over People

    By: Bailout WatchSeptember 30, 2021 WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and BailoutWatch today released Powerless in the Pandemic, a report showing some of the nation’s top electric utilities received a collective $1.25 billion from last year’s government bailouts while shutting off families’ electric service nearly 1 million times.  Utilities wielded political power to secure beneficial tax-code changes in the CARES Act, but defied calls to grant their own customers temporary relief. Instead, 16 utilities suspended or canceled electric service to nearly 1 million households between February 2020 and June 2021, leaving people without…


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  • “Critical Infrastructure” Anti-Protest Legislation Targets Pipeline Protestors

    This article has been contributed by CWFNC volunteer Hannah Budds All images in this post are from the 7 Directions of Service Water Walk along the proposed MVP Southgate route. On May 2, small teams walked, paddled, or biked the entire proposed Mountain Valley Southgate route. 7 Directions of Service, which led the Water Walk, collaborated with the Pittsylvania County, Virginia NAACP Environmental Justice Committee to begin the day near the proposed site of the Lambert Compressor Station which plans to connect the MVP Southgate to the MVP main line…


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