MountainTrue 2019 Legislative Agenda

The 2019 session of the North Carolina General Assembly includes opportunities for important progress on a range of environmental issues. As the only Western North Carolina environmental organization with a permanent advocacy effort in Raleigh, MountainTrue will use its presence in the capitol – as well as its substantial grassroots membership – to support a number of important environmental and conservation efforts, including:

Emergency Funding for Petroleum Spills – Last year, MountainTrue’s Watauga Riverkeeper Andy Hill discovered a large plume of petroleum pollution on the Watauga and called for state water quality regulators to begin cleanup efforts. But because of restrictions on state cleanup funds, the response was delayed until the source of the pollution could be determined – a process that can take weeks or even months. MountainTrue is advocating for new, unrestricted funding to allow cleanup to begin immediately and reduce the damage petroleum pollution can do to water quality and habitat.

More Water Quality Testing in WNC – Run-off and other pollution can make swimming and playing in many WNC rivers and streams unsafe for adults and children. MountainTrue is asking lawmakers to fund water testing in our mountain rivers and streams so people know when it’s safe to swim. This testing is currently funded for our state’s beaches but not for rivers in Western North Carolina – even though we have some of the most popular water recreation destinations in the Southeast.

Help Small Farmers Protect Water Quality – Simple efforts like fencing can help small farmers reduce their impact on WNC water quality. Unfortunately many small farmers need financial help to implement these kinds of “Best Management Practices,” or BMPs. And while there is current state funding for BMPs, it is not enough to help every willing farmer. MountainTrue will advocate for farmers to get the investments they need to prevent sediment and animal waste from harming rivers and streams.

Protect NC Trout and the WNC Trout Industry Whirling disease is a microscopic parasite that has been found in WNC trout streams. Last year, MountainTrue secured state funding for a study to help understand the threat this parasite poses to the trout industry – which contributes $383 million annually to the region’s economy. MountainTrue will use the results of the study to develop a legislative action plan to address this environmental and economic threat.

Open Space Conservation Funding – Before the Great Recession of 2008, North Carolina was a national leader in protecting and restoring land for recreation, habitat and clean water. Since the recession, funding levels for open space conservation have slowly increased but are still nowhere near their pre-recession levels. MountainTrue will continue to work with others in the conservation community to protect and expand funding for our parks, critical habitat and the health of critical watersheds.

Improve NC Emergency Preparedness – This year’s storms were a wake-up call that all of North Carolina must do more to prepare for extreme weather associated with climate change. MountainTrue will advocate for new policies and investments to prepare for this new reality, including moving agricultural and other industrial polluters out of flood plains and better flood control policies to protect homes and businesses from repeated destruction.


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

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.

MountainTrue, Other Community Groups Intervene In Duke’s Appeal of Coal Ash Order

MountainTrue, Other Community Groups Intervene In Duke’s Appeal of Coal Ash Order

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.

Motions to intervene were filed for the following Duke Energy coal ash sites: AllenBelews CreekCliffsideMarshallMayo, and Roxboro.

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


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.

Thank Boone’s Town Government for Taking Steps to Assess and Modernize Stormwater Management!

Thank Boone’s Town Government for Taking Steps to Assess and Modernize Stormwater Management!

 

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.

Stand Up For Clean Water at Mine Permit Hearing May 2!

Stand Up For Clean Water at Mine Permit Hearing May 2!

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.

Hearing Details:

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


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.

Call on Asheville City Council to Fund Transit Route Improvements for Historically Disenfranchised Communities!

Call on Asheville City Council to Fund Transit Route Improvements for Historically Disenfranchised Communities!

 

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.