Energy and Sustainability
MountainTrue is proud to announce our annual award winners for 2019. These awards are given to MountainTrue members and volunteers who have been outstanding in their commitment to preserving WNC’s natural heritage. Awards will be formally presented at our Annual Gathering on October 23 at New Belgium Brewing Company in Asheville.
The awards are as follows:
Esther Cunningham Award Winner: Katie Breckheimer
This award is given in honor of Esther Cunningham, the founder of the Western North Carolina Alliance, and is MountainTrue’s most prestigious award.
Katie Breckheimer has been a leader in environmental advocacy in WNC for over three decades. She was active with the Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO) in Henderson County, and then was crucial to the success of the transformative 2015 merger between ECO, the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA) and the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance (JMCA) that created MountainTrue. Not long after the merger, Katie’s natural capacity for leadership and her commitment to our work led her to serve a term as MountainTrue’s Board Chair.
Katie has played a major role in advocacy efforts including green energy, promoting greenways and recycling, and stopping coal ash pollution and expansion of Asheville’s Duke Energy power plant. Katie launched and continues to host Green Drinks in Hendersonville, a monthly social gathering and lecture series on environmental issues. Her passion for and dedication to environmental protection is beyond compare, and has positioned her as a leading voice for natural resources across the region.
Volunteer of the Year for the High Country Region: Chris Souhrada
Shortly after moving to Banner Elk, Chris connected with MountainTrue and immediately became one of MountainTrue’s most dedicated and reliable volunteers in the High Country. Chris has been a long-running water quality volunteer with the Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) program. High Country Regional Director Andy Hill calls him “the MVP and anchor of the water quality team who covers for others when needed, goes above and beyond what is asked of him and is always willing to help with other projects like livestaking and non-native invasive removal.” In general, Andy says Chris is just a hell of a guy and we are pleased to award him our High Country Region Volunteer of the Year!
Volunteers of the Year for the Southern Region: Kay Shurtleff and Lucy Butler
Kay and Lucy have both been committed volunteers with MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Office water quality monitoring programs for over a decade. Together they coordinate over 30 water testing sites by collecting samples from all of the volunteers and transporting them to the lab every month. They also participate in and coordinate biomonitoring for water insects in local streams twice per year. In addition to their ongoing commitments to our water programs, they have helped with a variety of other initiatives including Christmas tree recycling, river cleanups, local festivals, and advocacy at public meetings. Southern Region Director Gray Jernigan says “they are two of our most dedicated and reliable members and set the example by being great stewards of our natural environment.” Congratulations Kay and Lucy!
Volunteer of the Year for the Western Region: Charlie Swor
As the former secretary of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (HRWC) board of directors, Charlie worked hard on the complex and successful merger between HRWC and MountainTrue this past summer. Charlie also participates in our volunteer water quality monitoring program, taking monthly water chemistry and E. coli measurements from Corn Creek. He spearheaded a partnership between Young Harris College and HRWC for management of the Corn Creek riparian corridor, creating a much healthier stream environment and a more pleasant walk on the college’s streamside trail. Charlie float-fishes area rivers on a regular basis and lets us know when he discovers issues that might impact water quality. “Charlie is one of those ‘go-to’ guys when we need help with set-up for an event or really any ‘ole thing,” says Western Regional Director Callie Moore. “If he’s not busy and his wife, Rachel can take care of the kids (thanks Rachel!), he’s there!”
Volunteer of the Year for the Central Region: Erin Gregory
Erin has been a key volunteer for the French Broad Riverkeeper program for the last two years, spending hours each week collecting water samples that have led to the team finding no fewer than three major sewer issues. When French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook were out of town earlier this summer, Erin texted them to report an issue and then also contacted the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality on their behalf to instigate a quicker response. She has single-handedly created a French Broad River Festival for our Beer Series at The Wedge, including gear builders, outfitters, and other local producers, and she prompted the Asheville Yoga Center to designate MountainTrue their Charity of the Month. We couldn’t do it without you Erin!
Energy and Sustainability
The Marshall Steam Station, one of the six coal ash sites the NC Department of Environmental Quality ordered for Duke Energy to clean up.
May 6, 2019
MountainTrue and several other community groups in North Carolina are intervening in Duke Energy’s appeal of the order requiring the company to clean up its toxic coal ash pollution.
The Department of Environmental Quality’s order was a victory for clean water and frontline communities affected by coal ash in our state. MountainTrue is committed to ensuring that the science-based evidence that led to the Department of Environmental Quality’s order is respected, and that the order is implemented justly for the people of North Carolina.
The following is a press release by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which will represent MountainTrue in the proceedings before the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. See this press release on the Southern Environmental Law Center’s website here.
Groups Move to Defend N.C. Order that Duke Energy Must Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution at Six Sites
Duke’s Refusal Follows Years of Public Outcry, Pollution, Crimes & Spills
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Community groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center moved to intervene in appeals filed by Duke Energy in the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings in which Duke Energy tries to avoid cleaning up its coal ash pollution at six sites in North Carolina. At those sites, Duke Energy stores toxic coal ash in unlined, leaking pits sitting in groundwater next to rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs. For years and again in 2019, thousands of North Carolina families have called upon the state government and Duke Energy to clean up all of Duke’s leaking, unlined coal ash pits across the state. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the following groups in today’s filings: Appalachian Voices, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, MountainTrue, Roanoke River Basin Association, Sierra Club, the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, and Waterkeeper Alliance.
“All of North Carolina’s waters and all its families deserve protection from Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash pollution,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the groups in court seeking cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution. “Years of study show the only way to protect North Carolina families is to remove Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash waste from polluting, unlined waterfront pits. When the coal ash from all of Duke’s sites is finally out of our groundwater in dry, lined storage at each site, North Carolina’s rivers will be cleaner, North Carolina’s drinking water will be safer, and North Carolina’s communities will be more secure.”
State scientists determined that excavation was the only acceptable option because Duke Energy’s coal ash sits deep in the groundwater, and if left in unlined, leaking lagoons as Duke proposes, it would continue to pollute indefinitely. According to Duke Energy’s own analyses, it has the ability to remove the wet ash from unlined pits to dry, lined landfills on-site at each of the six sites in question. Duke Energy is required to clean up seven other coal ash sites in North Carolina by court order and an eighth coal ash site by a settlement agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Yadkin Riverkeeper.
“For years and with much effort, community members in the Broad River Watershed have respectfully shown up for DEQ’s public input meetings and public information sessions as well as Duke Energy’s community open house,” said David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper at MountainTrue which is a client in the motion to intervene regarding Duke’s Cliffside site. “We have followed and been part of the long process of discovering the truth about coal ash and its hazards. DEQ made the decision to have all coal ash in our state excavated and stored safely. We respect and support this decision. It is time for Duke Energy to stop wasting time and money on delaying the inevitable. Duke must now show some respect for its customers, families of North Carolina, and our Department of Environmental Quality; they must get on with the job of cleaning up their mess.”
Duke Energy’s operating companies in North Carolina are under criminal probation after they pleaded guilty 18 times to nine coal ash crimes committed at sites across the state. Duke Energy has a long record of coal ash pollution from the catastrophic Dan River coal ash spill and additional spills, including spills from its pits in Goldsboro and Wilmington in recent storms and continuing flows of pollution from its unlined pits across the state where coal ash sits in groundwater next to rivers and lakes. Duke Energy has repeatedly told the public its coal ash storage was safe, and repeatedly, Duke Energy has been proven wrong, with serious consequences for North Carolina communities and waterways.
“The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has been working to protect our waters from coal ash contamination since at least 2012 and will continue to do so,” said Brandon Jones, Catawba Riverkeeper at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation which is a client in the motions to intervene regarding Duke’s Allen and Marshall sites. “North Carolinians deserve clean water that is not contaminated by coal ash. Duke Energy has cleaned up other coal ash pits in our watershed and it is time for them to finish the job. We support the NC DEQ’s decision.”
“At this point, groups and communities throughout the state and the NC DEQ are all in agreement that excavation is the only acceptable option,” says Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, which is a client on the motions to intervene regarding Duke’s Allen and Marshall sites. “Yet Duke Energy still refuses to do the right thing.”
With these agency orders, North Carolina joins its neighboring states in requiring cleanup of dangerous unlined coal ash storage. Every utility in South Carolina is already required to excavate all the coal ash from every unlined lagoon in the state, and Virginia recently passed legislation that requires Dominion to excavate all the coal ash from its unlined pits in the state. The pollution from the six sites that are the subjects of Duke Energy’s appeals flows through North Carolina and into South Carolina and Virginia.
A timeline is available here.
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
Energy and Sustainability
The North Toe River in Spruce Pine is loved by paddlers, anglers and swimmers alike. It provides tourism opportunities for the local community, and is home to trout and endangered species that need clear mountain rivers to thrive.
However, mining facilities on the North Toe have violated water quality standards repeatedly in recent years, and last summer, the North Toe closed to the public after a hydrofluoric acid spill from a mine caused a fish kill. And while the NC Department of Environmental Quality considers the river impaired, the agency has proposed new permits for the next several years that would allow the pollution from the mine processing facilities to continue.
Right now the permits for all six mining facilities on the North Toe are up for renewal. Thankfully, MountainTrue members like you contacted the NC Division of Water Resources in February to make sure the Spruce Pine community gets a public hearing before the permits are approved, and that hearing is now scheduled for Thursday, May 2.
Public Hearing on Wastewater Discharge Permit Renewals for Avery and Mitchell Counties
Thursday May 2 at 6 P.M.
Mitchell Senior Citizens Center
152 Ledger School Road
Bakersville, NC 28705
Speaker registration begins at 5:30 P.M.
We hope you’ll come to the hearing to stand up for clean water, and spread the word to make sure there’s a big public turnout!
Why Are The Mine Permits A Problem?
- As it stands, these Clean Water Act permits would allow these mining facilities to continue dumping polluted water into the North Toe River for the next several years. Now is our chance to urge the Department of Environmental Quality to do the right thing. DEQ can still change the permits to require the mines to clean up their act, instead of locking in the same pollution for years to come.
- DEQ considers the North Toe River impaired, but allows the current pollution to continue unabated in the proposed renewed pollution permits.
- DEQ should require the facilities with aging or failing infrastructure to upgrade their operations, reduce pollution, and protect water quality.
- These six mining facilities generate an enormous amount of waste and together have a real negative impact on the North Toe. With all six permits up for renewal, now is the perfect opportunity for DEQ to take a closer look at these mining facilities and to develop permits will clean up the river.
- The outdoor recreation economy in Western North Carolina depends on clean water and requires industry to be good stewards of our rivers.
- If you live near the North Toe, DEQ needs to hear from you about what conditions you observe when mine runoff clogs the river and where the biggest problems are.
Proposed Mine Facility Permits:
Crystal Operation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/crystal-operation-permit-nc0084620-0
The Feldspar Corporation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/feldspar-corporation-permit-nc0000353
Red Hill Quartz Processing Plant: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/red-hill-quartz-processing-plant-permit-nc0085839-0
Schoolhouse Quartz Facility: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/schoolhouse-quartz-facility-permit-nc0000361-0
Quartz Operation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/quartz-operation-permit-nc0000175-0
Quartz Corp/Pine Mountain: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/quartz-corppine-mountain-permit-nc0000400-1
Energy and Sustainability
As you may have heard, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced recently that it will order a full cleanup of every coal ash pit in the state! This is truly one of the biggest environmental victories of our era. As if that wasn’t enough, last week Duke Energy announced that it has indefinitely postponed the construction of a 190-megawatt gas-fired peaker plant on Lake Julian, removing it from its list of future projects.
For six years, MountainTrue members kept the pressure on Duke Energy and the state Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the coal ash mess and to move beyond fossil fuels toward more efficiency and renewable energy. You are part of that legacy. Your support held Duke Energy accountable. These victories are an important reminder that your activism can change the course of history.
When you stand with MountainTrue, you fight for our environment. Will you stand alongside MountainTrue this Earth Day?
By donating to MountainTrue, you safeguard public lands, advocate for the common good in the halls of government, protect our waterways, and help build a sustainable future in the face of climate change.
In honor of Earth Day, act locally by making a contribution to MountainTrue today. With your donation, you will be helping to fight for future successes like these.
Thank you for being part of MountainTrue and making this work possible.