Duke Energy Rate Increase Hearing Comes to Asheville Feb. 20

Duke Energy Rate Increase Hearing Comes to Asheville Feb. 20

Duke Energy Rate Increase Hearing Comes to Asheville Feb. 20

For Immediate Release

Duke Energy Rate Increase Hearing Comes to Asheville Feb. 20

Media Contact:
Eliza Stokes, Advocacy & Communications Associate, MountainTrue
E: eliza@mountaintrue.org P: 410-493-7284

February 14, 2020

Asheville, NC On Thursday, Feb. 20, the North Carolina Utilities Commission will hold its Asheville hearing on the latest proposal by Duke Energy to increase electricity rates. 

Duke Energy Progress, a subsidiary of Duke Energy with territory in Buncombe County and many other counties across North Carolina, seeks approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission for a $463.6 million increase in the amount the company collects from ratepayers each year. This would result in an average 14.3% increase in residential electric bills, or approximately $17.29 more per month for residential customers.

This issue hits close to home in Asheville, as the rate hike includes a request for Duke customers to pay for the $820 million new gas plant at Lake Julian. Also included are plans to recover $402 million for capital investments at coal plants and $530 million for customers to clean up Duke’s coal ash across the state.

“Every couple years, Duke comes back with another proposal to increase customers’ rates,” says Eliza Stokes, an organizer at the environmental non-profit MountainTrue and a customer of Duke Energy Progress. “Duke’s energy plans lack the serious, significant investment in renewable energy that North Carolina needs to face the climate crisis. Because Duke has a monopoly, customers like me don’t have the option to choose another energy company that better aligns with our values.” 

Stokes says Duke’s shareholders should be paying their fair share for these costs. In 2018, Duke made $3.03 billion in net income, while paying $0 in federal taxes. According to a MountainTrue investigation of Duke’s financials, the company has paid their Board over $24.5 million and issued $16.707 billion in dividend payments to their shareholders since 2013. 

“It is unconscionable for a company making this level of profit to call on customers many of whom are on low or fixed incomes to foot the bill for Duke’s coal ash mismanagement and continued reliance on fossil fuels.”

The hearing in Asheville will be held in Courtroom 1A of the Buncombe County Courthouse at 60 Court Plaza at 7pm. Those who wish to speak should arrive by 6:30pm to sign up. 

MountainTrue works in 26 counties to champion resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities in our region. With offices in Boone, Murphy, Asheville and Hendersonville, MountainTrue engages in policy advocacy at all levels of government and on-the-ground environmental restoration projects. Primary program areas include public lands, water quality, clean energy, land use/transportation, and community engagement.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America

Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America

Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America

On January 2, MountainTrue, other community partners and our legal counsel the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) announced a historic settlement with Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

The agreement mandates that 80 million tons of coal ash will be excavated from six Duke Energy coal ash sites: Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo, and Roxboro. Prior settlements and court orders require cleanups and excavation of coal ash at the eight other Duke Energy sites in North Carolina for the excavation of 46 million tons of coal ash. This agreement now puts in place a comprehensive cleanup plan for all coal ash lagoons at all 14 Duke Energy sites in North Carolina under which 126 million tons of ash has been or will be excavated across the state and will result in the largest coal ash cleanup in America to date.

Statement from Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue:

With this settlement, Duke Energy has committed to fully excavating coal ash at the Rogers/Cliffside Energy Complex and moving it to a lined landfill where it will no longer pollute groundwater and the Broad River. This is the solution we’ve advocated for the last seven years, and it is a huge victory for our environment and for the front line communities most impacted by decades of coal ash pollution.

Statement from David Caldwell, Broad Riverkeeper:

Thanks should be given to the hundreds of local concerned citizens in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties, who showed up, stood up and spoke out at several public meetings. Together we were able to convince NCDEQ, our Department of Environmental Quality, and Duke Energy that moving all of the coal ash, a byproduct of 70 years of burning coal, to dry storage is the safest alternative to closing coal ash basins.

Read the full press release from SELC below.

For Release: January 2, 2020

Contact: SELC, Kathleen Sullivan, 919-945-7106 or ksullivan@selcnc.org

North Carolina Settlement Results in Largest Coal Ash Cleanup in America
Community Groups, N.C. DEQ and Duke Energy Reach Settlement to Clean Up Coal Ash at Six North Carolina Sites

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The Southern Environmental Law Center today announced it reached a settlement with Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to clean up coal ash at six North Carolina sites on behalf of Appalachian Voices, Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, MountainTrue, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Roanoke River Basin Association, Cape Fear River Watch, Neuse River Foundation/Sound Rivers, and N.C. State Conference of the NAACP. With this agreement, North Carolina will benefit from the largest coal ash cleanup in America to date.

Approximately 80 million tons of coal ash will be excavated from six Duke Energy coal ash sites: Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo, and Roxboro. At each of these sites, coal ash is stored in unlined, leaking pits near waterbodies. Prior settlements and court orders require cleanups and excavation of coal ash at the eight other Duke Energy sites in North Carolina for the excavation of 46 million tons of coal ash: Asheville, Riverbend, Dan River, Sutton, Weatherspoon, Cape Fear, Lee, and Buck. This agreement now puts in place a comprehensive cleanup plan for all coal ash lagoons at all 14 Duke Energy sites in North Carolina under which 126 million tons of ash has been or will be excavated across the state.

In April 2019, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) ordered Duke Energy to clean up the remaining six coal ash storage sites in the state that were not yet slated to be cleaned up. Duke Energy appealed those orders, and the Southern Environmental Law Center intervened on behalf of community groups to support cleanup, alongside DEQ.
This agreement resolves Duke Energy’s pending appeals of DEQ’s April order, a state court enforcement proceeding brought by DEQ in which community groups represented by SELC are intervenors, and three federal court actions brought by SELC on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association, Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, N.C. State Conference of the NAACP, and Appalachian Voices.

Today’s settlement culminates efforts that began in 2012 when the Southern Environmental Law Center first went to court to seek cleanup of coal ash pollution on behalf of community groups in South Carolina and thereafter brought administrative and legal actions that sought coal ash cleanups in North Carolina. Now every utility in South Carolina is excavating its coal ash from every unlined lagoon in the state and cleanups are required and will be underway at every coal ash site in North Carolina. Coal ash has been, is being, and will be removed from coal ash pits owned by three utilities on rivers that flow through both states.

With the coal ash removal at Marshall and Allen in addition to prior commitments at other sites, approximately 44.5 million tons of coal ash has been and will be excavated from coal ash pits along the Catawba River in North and South Carolina. With the removals at Belews Creek, Mayo, and Roxboro, almost 40 million tons of ash in the Roanoke and Dan River Basins have been and are being moved to lined storage. Almost 17 million tons of coal ash will be removed at Roxboro and over 17 million tons of coal ash will be removed at Marshall while ash already in permitted landfills or structural fills will be subject to additional protective measures including stabilization actions and groundwater and surface water monitoring and remediation.
Over 8 million tons will be excavated at Cliffside on the Broad River.

“This agreement is the culmination of nine years of work by communities across North Carolina and puts in place the most extensive coal ash cleanup in the nation,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the community groups in court seeking coal ash cleanups in North Carolina. “With the agreements and court orders governing eight other coal ash sites, we now have in place a historic cleanup of coal ash lagoons to protect North Carolina’s clean water and families from coal ash pollution. North Carolina’s communities will be safer and North Carolina’s water will be cleaner than they have been in decades.”

Comments from the community groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center in various courts to seek cleanup of coal ash pollution at the six North Carolina sites follow.

Amy Adams of Appalachian Voices: “This agreement is a testament to the communities throughout North Carolina that have worked for years to protect their neighborhoods and clean water from coal ash pollution.”

Rev. Gregory Hairston of the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP: “We are thankful for the settlement and count it a major victory for our air, water and environmental justice in the state of North Carolina.”

Brandon Jones, Catawba Riverkeeper at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation: “This settlement is a fantastic victory for the Catawba and all North Carolinians and a major step towards protecting water quality for current and future generations. This is one of, if not the largest coal ash cleanup in American history. We are proud to have been a part of this effort from the beginning.”

Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue: “With this settlement, Duke Energy has committed to fully excavating coal ash at the Rogers/Cliffside Energy Complex and moving it to a lined landfill where it will no longer pollute groundwater and the Broad River. This is the solution we’ve advocated for the last seven years, and it is a huge victory for our environment and for the front line communities most impacted by decades of coal ash pollution.”

Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance; “Duke Energy is doing the right thing and protecting all North Carolina communities and waterways from its toxic legacy. North Carolina Waterkeepers and their partners worked tirelessly to stop the contamination of the
state’s waterways by toxic coal ash; this monumental agreement is a testament to their years of work.”

Dave Rogers, deputy regional director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign: “This agreement is a victory for communities and represents the culmination of years of work across North Carolina to guarantee protections from toxic coal ash pollution for hundreds of families and children.”

Statement by Gene Addesso, Mike Pucci and Greg Goddard, leaders of the Roanoke River Basin Association: “Under this agreement, the Roanoke River and Dan River Basins will see one of the largest coal ash cleanups in the country, with millions of tons of coal ash being moved to lined storage at the Dan River, Belews Creek, Roxboro, and Mayo sites on the river system that flows through communities in North Carolina and Virginia.”

Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman of the N.C. State Conference of the NAACP: “Coal ash pollution is an environmental justice issue, and this agreement will bring more justice to the communities around coal ash sites in North Carolina.”

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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 more than 80 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


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Renewal: Celebrating the Merger of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue

Renewal: Celebrating the Merger of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue

Renewal: Celebrating the Merger of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue

Local favorite Gnarly Fingers will play during the merger celebration event on August 17th. From left to right, band members are Brian Kruger, Tom Edwards, Pat List, Joann Holoman, and Keith Layton. 


For Immediate Release

Media Contacts:

Karim Olaechea, MountainTrue Communications Director
C: 415-535-9004, E: karim@mountaintrue.org

Callie Moore, MountainTrue Western Regional Director
C: 828-837-5414, E: callie@mountaintrue.org


Renewal: Celebrating the Merger of Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition and MountainTrue

Brasstown, N.C. — MountainTrue invites everyone to a celebration of its recent merger with the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (HRWC). The event will be held at the Staurolite Farm Barn in the Trout Cove community of Brasstown, NC on Saturday, August 17, 5:30-9:00 p.m.

Long-time members and supporters of HRWC will join with staff and local members of MountainTrue for food, games, music, dancing and fun. Program coordinator, Tony Ward, will offer a tour of one of the Coalition’s oldest stream restoration projects, Trout Cove Branch, and live music will be provided by local favorite Gnarly Fingers.

The merger represents a renewal of MountainTrue’s roots in far Western North Carolina, as well as a renewal of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition’s programs. This event is a great opportunity to learn more about MountainTrue and its current and future work. Admission is free, but please RSVP online at: https://mountaintrue.org/event/21549/ or call 828-837-5414.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

The Broad River Gets Its Own Riverkeeper

The Broad River Gets Its Own Riverkeeper

The Broad River Gets Its Own Riverkeeper

MountainTrue is pleased to announce that David Caldwell, MountainTrue’s program director for the Broad River Alliance, is now the new Broad Riverkeeper and will serve as a fundamental protector of the Broad River watershed. MountainTrue’s riverkeeper programs are key to our endeavors to monitor and protect the quality of our region’s waterways. MountainTrue is one of the few organizations in the nation with four Waterkeeper Alliance Riverkeeper programs: the French Broad Riverkeeper, the Green Riverkeeper, the Watauga Riverkeeper and now the Broad Riverkeeper.

Quote from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance:
“Waterkeeper Alliance is thrilled to have David Caldwell as the eyes, ears, and voice in this this vital watershed and community. Every community deserves to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water, and David is the right leader to fight for clean water in the region.”

David moved to the Broad River watershed in 1987 after receiving an Engineering degree from Clemson University. He worked in manufacturing for several years in Shelby, and has been fishing, paddling and exploring the watershed’s rivers and tributaries for over three decades now.

David’s first civic involvement was in the late 90s, when he joined efforts to rebuild and restore the carousel in Shelby City Park. The carousel is now a jewel of the City of Shelby Parks system. Since 2000, David has also run a woodworking business at his home in Lawndale.

In 2015, David became the Coordinator for the Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate and program of MountainTrue. David has teamed up with regional representatives from the Broad River Greenway, Rutherford Outdoor Coalition, Rutherford County and Cleveland County Development Authorities and others to protect and promote the waters of the Broad River basin.

Quote from David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper:
“I’ve spent the past three decades falling in love with the Broad River and its tributaries. It is an honor to be able to call myself a Riverkeeper and to continue my mission to ensure our rivers are safe and clean for the people who live, swim, paddle, and fish here. Folks in our watershed are passionate about our beautiful rivers and have amazed me with their enthusiasm and support. We have a lot of great programs and activities planned for our community in the year ahead. I hope that you will join us.”

Quote from Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue:
“MountainTrue is proud of our partnership with the Waterkeeper Alliance. Our Riverkeepers fight for safe and healthy waterways for all citizens of their watersheds by bringing together and empowering local residents and communities to identify pollution sources, advocate for and enforce environmental laws, and engage in restoration. We’re thrilled to be bringing this program to our Broad River communities.”

Quote from Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance:
“David will have an incredibly important job. Waterkeepers defend their communities against anyone who threatens their right to clean water, from law-breaking polluters to irresponsible government officials. Until our public agencies have the means necessary to protect us from polluters, and the will to enforce the law, there will always be a great need for people like David to fight for our right to clean water.”


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

How Clean Is Your River? Check Swim Guide

How Clean Is Your River? Check Swim Guide

How Clean Is Your River? Check Swim Guide

Before you head out onto the water, don’t forget to check theswimguide.org. MountainTrue’s four Riverkeepers post up-to-date water monitoring results for the Broad, French Broad, Green and Watauga rivers just in time for the weekends. The Swim Guide is the public’s best resource for knowing which streams and river recreation areas are safe to swim in, and which have failed to meet safe water quality standards for bacteria pollution.

Check out the Swim Guide.

“Right before jumping into the river, the number one question people ask us is ‘Is it clean?’” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “Swim Guide is the answer to that question.” Each week throughout the spring, summer and fall, the volunteers for each of MounainTrue’s four Riverkeeper programs collect samples from their rivers’ most popular streams and recreation areas every Wednesday. By Friday afternoon, those samples are analyzed for levels of E. coli and the data is posted to theswimguide.org.

“We get the results to the public as quickly as possible because we want Swim Guide to be up-to-date in time for the weekend,” says Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan.

“E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer leaks, failing septic tanks and stormwater runoff. One of the biggest culprits is runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers,” explains Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell. In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or protected public lands that lack agricultural, developmental or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and least affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted.

Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. “As it rains and the river becomes muddier, levels of bacteria pollution generally get worse,” Watauga Riverkeeper Andy explains. “But when the water is clear, it’s a great opportunity to get out for a swim in the river without worry.”


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Take Part in the Very First BioBlitz of the Nantahala Gorge

Take Part in the Very First BioBlitz of the Nantahala Gorge

Take Part in the Very First BioBlitz of the Nantahala Gorge

Join MountainTrue, Nantahala Outdoor Center and Nantahala River Lodge for the Nantahala Gorge BioBlitz – a citizen-science program that will pair residents with more than a dozen expert naturalists to document one of the exceptional natural areas of Nantahala National Forest.

What: Nantahala Gorge BioBlitz, presented by MountainTrue, Nantahala Outdoor Center and Nantahala River Lodge.
Where: Nantahala Outdoor Center, 13077 Highway 19 W, Bryson City, NC 28713
When: Meet up on Saturday, June 1 at 9 a.m. at the Big Wesser restaurant at the Nantahala Outdoor Center

The Nantahala Gorge BioBlitz is an opportunity for people who love the great outdoors and want to learn more about the plants and creatures who call Nantahala Gorge their home. Nantahala Gorge is characterized by the unique geology of the Murphy Marble Belt. This soft rack has been carved by the Nantahala River into a scenic gorge that is known to harbor many unique species reliant on calcium – a soil nutrient in short supply in the Blue Ridge. Despite its outstanding character, the Nantahala Gorge has never had a systematic biological inventory and the BioBlitz is likely to turn up new records for the area.

“BioBlitzes are a great opportunity for people connect with and learn about the natural world around them,” explains MountainTrue Public Lands Biologist Josh Kelly. “We’re going to be documenting a broad range of life at Nantahala Gorge, including butterflies, beetles, vascular plants, bryophytes, lichens, birds, mammals, mushrooms, and more.”

Expert hike leaders will include faculty from UNC Asheville, Western Carolina University, Mars Hill University as well as naturalists from the U.S. Forest Service’s Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory,, Asheville Mushroom Club, Tangled Bank Conservation and MountainTrue.

We will lead groups for all fitness levels, from relaxed hikes to vigorous climbs up the side of the the gorge. Participants are encouraged to bring at least two quarts of water, rain gear, sturdy footwear and their own lunches.

This event is free and open to the public. Sign up below.

 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.