North Carolina regulators’ penchant for seemingly protecting Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) former employers from repeated lawsuits over their environmental practices was only stopped following a devastatingly toxic spill, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow reported on Monday.
On two prior occasions, Maddow said, officials at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) invoked a provision in the federal Clean Water Act allowing them to step in as plaintiffs against Duke Energy when Duke was being sued by environmental activists over the toxic coal ash ponds at its facilities. The state reached settlements worth a collective $99,000 for those incidents.
But Monday night, she explained, a third such settlement was delayed in the wake of a pond spill that produced up to 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water — the third-biggest spill of its’ kind in U.S. history.
And despite not making any statement about the Feb. 3 disaster until four days after it happened, McCrory — who worked with the company for 28 years — used the first two DENR settlements to boast that his administration took “legal action” against Duke Energy.
“Right,” Maddow said skeptically. “By stepping in and blocking other peoples’ lawsuits against the company, and then settling with the company for nearly no money, and, importantly, [requiring] no promise from Duke Energy that they would fix what they were doing wrong.”
As the Associated Press reported on Sunday, a former DENR regional director, Amy Adams, resigned in November 2013, saying she was dissuaded from levying sanctions against companies like Duke since McCrory took office in 2010.
“This was absolutely 100 percent preventable,” Adams told Maddow on Monday. “What we know is that these coal ash ponds, any time that [companies are] storing toxic coal ash in an unlined hole in the ground adjacent to our surface waters, that there’s a risk to the public.”
Watch Maddow’s report on the North Carolina coal ash spill, as aired on MSNBC on Monday, below.