In Hope for a Better Way

Today we returned to Raleigh in response to DEQ’s release of the classifications of the coal ash basins around North Carolina. While on the surface, the intermediate classification seems like a victory. However, the classifications include two loopholes in both sixty days, and again in 18 months, a year after the election. We are all growing frustrated with the delays in cleaning up the coal ash. Following are my remarks from today’s press conference. As always, I end with a prayer. Ever the optimist, I have full faith that we will find a better way for handling coal ash worldwide.

Good morning,

My name is Caroline Armijo. I am a Stokes County native representing the Belews Creek community.

As you have heard today, we are tired of the collusion between Duke Energy and DEQ, as spearheaded by our Governor, Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke for almost thirty years.

We do not believe that his political appointees should be making life-changing decisions that have detrimental health consequences on so many families across our state.

It’s worth noting that even though the overall rankings are an improvement from the December rankings, all High risk ponds were downgraded to intermediate. And of course, there is the loophole to change everything in sixty days and again in 18 months.

So we want ACTION. We want real solutions. We want transparency. And we want approval by the true experts of coal ash, impacted residents in all of the communities where coal ash is contained or slated to receive it.

We also want independent verification of the true clean up cost and timeline. Not inflated figures provided by Duke. We know that in South Carolina, where Duke simply cleaned up the coal ash because they are not a monopoly, the groundwater is improving. They are also under budget and ahead of schedule.

We do not like the current clean up plan of digging up the ash, strewing it across our state and dumping it on another community nor just leaving it to pollute our land forever. There is a better way, but we believe that Duke and DEQ are unwilling to pursue new technology because it does not benefit Duke’s shareholders.

We want a plan that heavily relies on recycling and reusing the ash. This can happen through the concrete industry, which increases the longevity and decreases the cost of our much-need infrastructure.

Developments have been made around a polymer encapsulation process that would allow for coal ash to be stored safely in a solid block that can be reused as future technology advances. Instead of burying the ash, we should be mining the 150 million tons for the valuable heavy metals that are used in cell phones, computers and electronics. Perhaps one day, the same metals that are killing our citizens may be used for medical technology to cure cancer. If we simply bury this resource, we will never know.

So we are establishing a Coal Ash Clean Up Oversight Committee made up of a wide range of experts to make sure the clean up goes the best possible way for all communities. This is a committee made up of independent scientists and residents of currently impacted and targeted communities. We are talking to experts in human health, engineering, geochemistry, public policy and other disciplines. We also encourage all of those interested in participating to contact us. We want to find real solutions not influenced by Duke Energy’s financial motives.

Dear Gracious God –

We are called here today on the heels of Pentecost, a day of forging unity and giving new vision. On that day, a mighty wind ushered in the Holy Spirit and created a clamoring of those present all speaking in their native tongues as a symbol of unification.

Lord, today we gather with all of our glorious accents from across the state to share the powerful message of your radical calling we are here to live out:

We pray for the resurrection of the Appalachian Mountains buried in our midst.

To do that we pray, Lord, that you may carefully rip open the seams of these dark hidden places and reveal your light buried there.

May each of these coal ash pits and landfills be restored to their former glory, healing our earth, our communities and our bodies.

May you reveal a thorough plan to each of us standing here with open and expectant hearts, as well as to those unable to join us today.

This morning as I prepared for this trip, I was comforted with Isaiah’s prophecy: “Behold I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered nor will they come to mind.”

Lord, we seek to help restore what our communities have lost after decades of living in the shadows of Duke’s smoke stacks – vitality, strength, comfort, and most importantly, peace.

Jesus, you promise us in John 14:14: You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.

Lord, May we pursue the most excellent way and serve as a model for how coal ash should be handled, not only in North Carolina, but all over the world.


Related Press

Coal Ash site risk levels required to be released this week

Belews Creek ash pond ranked as intermediate risk


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