Why would the state ask a judge to take away its legal authority to stop groundwater pollution?
For years, North Carolina has known that Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds are illegally contaminating groundwater. Yet the state has not taken any action to force Duke to correct the violations.
In fact, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission, the body that oversees the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and determines what DENR can enforce, determined two years ago that the state did not have the authority to make Duke clean up the source of its illegal pollution — coal ash ponds.
Last month, to the relief of concerned citizens and environmental groups, a superior court judge reversed the EMC’s prior decision, ruling that the state actually does have the legal authority to force Duke Energy to immediately clean up its coal ash ponds.
As expected, Duke Energy appealed the judge’s decision. Last week, however, in a move that surprised many, the EMC also appealed the judge’s decision. Why would the state ask a judge to take away it’s legal authority to stop groundwater pollution?
The answer likely has to do with who makes up the EMC and how they were appointed. A local Raleigh news station, WNCN, did some digging and found that at least eight of the fifteen EMC members have ties to Duke Energy or other major power companies. For example, the chairman, Benne Hutson, works for a law firm that has represented Duke Energy in court.
Given that the EMC is appointed by the Senate president pro tempore, the House speaker, and the governor — who worked for Duke Energy for 28 years — it’s not surprising that the commission has chosen to pander to corporate interests rather than adequately protect North Carolina’s water and its citizens health.