The Front Porch Blog, with Updates from AppalachiaThe Front Porch Blog, with Updates from Appalachia


“It’s just vitamins!” Industry confuses residents on coal ash safety

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | 2 Comments

Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources continue to confound and confuse families that have the unfortunate luck of living in close proximity to the utility’s coal ash lagoons. So citizens and county officials are stepping in to help residents air their frustrations and, hopefully, to receive some answers. [ Read More ]

Keep the Clean Water Act going strong

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ended a decade of confusion with the release of a long-awaited Clean Water Rule, which clarifies the scope of waters that are protected under the Clean Water Act. As the EPA pursues updates to the “effluent limitation guidelines," we hope the Obama administration ready to continue the trend of strengthening and modernizing the Clean Water Act. [ Read More ]

Duke Energy: Stop the Spin Cycle

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

Sara Behnke loves her home, Mountain Island Lake. But about 10 miles northwest of Charlotte, N.C., the lake, which supplies drinking water to more than 800,000 residents of the Charlotte metro area, is threatened by two coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s recently shuttered Riverbend plant.

We’re happy to share a recent post by Sara from the blog of We Love Mountain Island Lake, a local group working to protect the lake from coal pollution. Live in the Charlotte area? Like We Love Mountain Island Lake’s Facebook page.

– – – –

“Never fall for someone who says the right things. Fall for someone who does the right things.” I read that quote this morning on Facebook right after I read this article in The Charlotte Observer: “NC SUES 12 DUKE ENERGY PLANTS.” The line that really hit me in the gut was Erin Culbert, the Duke Energy spokesperson, saying, “State regulators are requesting more data to ensure waters of the state are well protected.” REALLY? Can she really believe her own statement? And do they really think we are dumb enough to buy that?

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The Public’s Reaction to NC’s Proposed Settlement with Duke Energy: NNNNNO!

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

You can read The Charlotte Observer article, but the upshot is that the public strongly denounced the state’s proposed “do-nothing” settlement. Almost 5,000 people submitted comments, almost all saying that the settlement doesn’t go far enough to ensuring our water is safe from coal ash waste.

So basically, the public reaction’s was….

Jon Stewart unacceptable

And I can only imagine that Duke Energy’s is…

Jon stewart worry

Watch this space for more to come. After all, the state has now filed an injunction for all coal-fired power plants in the state.

Of Loincloths and Lean-Tos: The Fight To Protect NC’s Water

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

According to N.C. DENR Secretary John Skvarla, if you love clean air and water, here's the dress code.

According to N.C. DENR Secretary John Skvarla, if you love clean air and water, this is your dress code.

Out of the many things that were targeted in the North Carolina legislature, water quality took a huge hit. Not only did the state budget call for the consolidation of the Division of Water Quality and Division of Water Resources, it slashed the two agencies combined budget by more than 12 percent.

And there is the curious case of John Skvarla, the secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources who has derided his own agency as an “eco-enforcer” before he came onboard.

At a luncheon for the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, he claimed to not have a position on climate change since he’s not a scientist, and stated that if environmentalists had their way, “we would live in lean-tos and wear loincloths.”

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Join the Inaugural Southeast Coal Ash Summit

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | 1 Comment

For folks interested in the topic of toxic coal ash and how it threatens our communities, here’s an opportunity to learn more and engage with others interested in the issue.

On Sept. 27-28, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will host an inaugural Southeast Coal Ash Summit in Atlanta, Ga.

Advocates, national and regional experts, and concerned citizens from across the Southeast will gather together for two days to learn more about toxic coal ash and how we can protect our communities and waters from this toxic waste.


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First Annual Climate Convergence in Raleigh, NC

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

Citizens converged in Raleigh yesterday to demand that political leadership begin to address the challenge of climate change. North Carolina House Rep. Pricey Harrison reminds the crowd that the state legislature belongs to the people. She recently re-introduced the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act that would a) ban the burning of mountaintop-removal coal in the state, b) put into place comprehensive rules for the storage and disposal of coal ash waste, c) place a moratorium on the construction of new coal plants, and d) divest state pension funds from fossil fuels.

EPA Releases Proposal To Update Clean Water Act Standards for Power Plant Pollution

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally proposed a range of options to regulate waste water from power plants which are responsible for half of the nation’s water pollution. While the public comment period has yet to begin, a public hearing is schedule for July 9th in Washington, DC.

More details on the rule itself, and how to submit your comments will be become available on

Below is a press statement from Appalachian Voices and a number of allied organizations.

After 30 years of inaction, EPA finally proposes plans for power plant water pollution includes options protecting waters from toxic pollution as well as weaker standards that maintain the status quo

Washington, D.C. – The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a number of regulatory options late last Friday night, known as steam electric effluent limitation guidelines for power plants, two of which will finally clean up water pollution from hundreds of power plants.

Power plant water discharges are filled with toxic pollution such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium – heavy metals that can cause neurological and developmental damage, cause harm in utero, damage internal organs and cause cancer. Power plants are the biggest sources of water pollution in the country, yet the EPA has not reviewed regulations for this industry in more than 30 years. To address this unacceptable delay, environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2010 to force the EPA to take action and regulate this dirty industry.

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Clean Water News: Congress Backs Down, N.C. Steps Up

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

Thallium was once used as rat poison. Now DENR is suing Progress Energy for Thallium polluting the French Broad River from its Asheville power plant.

Last week, there was concern that the U.S. Senate budget resolution would end up containing measures to decrease funding for initiatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency such as the release of guidelines for coal ash disposal and rules to ensure states are following water quality standards. Thanks to good Americans like yourself speaking up, the Senate budget remained free of dirty water amendments.

While the budget resolution is non-binding, and the Senate Appropriations Committee decides how funding gets allocated later in the process, the resolution send a strong message regarding the Senate’s priorities. Unfortunately, one of the more controversial amendments that did pass was in support of building the Keystone XL pipeline.

While the Senate backed down on loading up the budget resolution with dirty water clauses, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources stepped and up and decided to take legal action against Progress Energy for the release of toxic heavy metals from their Asheville plant into the French Broad River. 

Western North Carolina Alliance, Sierra Club, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy had filed a notice of intent to sue Progress Energy for violating the Clean Water Act for unpermitted seeps into the French Broad River. It appears DENR took notice and is now taking up their own case against Progress Energy. DENR is seeking injunctive relief and demanding Progress Energy solve the issue in lieu of the state seeking monetary damages.

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Will This March Madness Be An Upset for Clean Water?

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments


Help Prevent a Clean Water Upset (Picture by mvongrue, hosted by Flickr)

UPDATE: The Senate Budget Resolution passed without any of the amendments mentioned below. Victory!

As most of you know, between the federal House of Representatives and the Senate, the Senate is usually the level-headed older brother of the family and tends to be a more deliberative legislative body. But this month the Senate decided it wanted to shake things up a bit by creating a little March Madness of its own.

The Senate is going through a seemingly insane process known on Capitol Hill as a vote-a-rama to reach a deal on a final Senate budget resolution. Senate leadership is allowing any number of amendments to be presented and voted on — whatever they can get done in 50 hours.

While all the amendments have yet to be presented, several of them take aim at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to do its job, which is to protect our air, water and public health. Some of the amendments could stop the EPA from:

    – Making sure states are complying with and improving water quality standards in accordance to the Clean Water Act.
    – Creating national standards for how coal ash, the toxic waste produced by coal-burning for electricity, is disposed and stored.
    – Restoring critical Clean Water Act protections to streams, wetlands and drinking water standards.

TAKE ACTION: We are asking supporters to contact their Senators. If you haven’t yet, there is still time.

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Despite Positive PR for Duke Energy, Our Water is Still at Risk

Friday, February 1st, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

Duke Energy announced it would retire the Riverbend Power Plant in April, two years ahead of schedule. A good headline, but water is still being put at risk.

Don’t like what people are saying about you? Change the conversation!

Duke Energy has gotten a ton of mileage for their decision to retire or convert some of their older, more inefficient power plants in the Tarheel State. It’s environmentally-friendly after all – recycling news stories!

And you can create a whole new news story by moving your timeline. Duke Energy announced today they will be retiring their octogenarian coal plants, Riverbend in Gaston County and Buck in Rowan County this April, nearly two years ahead of schedule.

And while we are happy that Mountain Island Lake and the Yadkin River will be suffering from less pollution from toxic heavy metals like arsenic, selenium, chromium and so on, could it be that Duke Energy is trying to distract from the PR crisis they are currently facing around their leaking coal ash impoundments?

Like the fact that Western North Carolina Alliance intends to pursue legal action against Progress Energy for not complying with the Clean Water Act and allowing illegal discharges into the French Broad River. Or that the Catawba Riverkeeper has documented seeps into Mountain Island Lake, Charlotte’s drinking water supply, and Lake Wylie. Or how about that the Cape Fear Riverkeeper is reporting high arsenic levels in groundwater near well water supplies at the Sutton plant in Wilmington.

On top of that, Duke University scientists publishing reports that seem to back up many of these claims. So while Duke’s announcement is indeed good news for water, we need to continue to hold Duke and Progress accountable. There is more to be done.

New NC DENR Boss Isn’t Sure About Global Warming

Friday, January 11th, 2013 | Posted by Sandra Diaz | No Comments

By Tabitha Lundsford
Red, White and Water intern, Spring 2013

Watch as John Skvarla, North Carolina’s new head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, sidesteps a question about climate change (near the end of the video) and supports the continuance of fracking.

As the state pursues more controversial forms of energy production, he believes that “we are not going to go backward in air and water quality protection.”



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