Which brings us to the Tea Party paradise of North Carolina and Duke Energy’s massive coal ash spill into the Dan River — spreading as many as 82,000 tons of toxic sludge along 70 miles of scenic river bottom. According to The Associated Press, “coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury and other heavy metals highly toxic to humans and wildlife.”
In addition to the “accidental” spill, caused by a collapsed corrugated pipe seemingly uninspected since 1986, environmental activists photographed Duke employees pumping an estimated 61 million gallons of coal ash-contaminated water into the Cape Fear River further east.
The resulting uproar has persuaded GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, a 29-year Duke Energy employee (and recipient of some $1.1 million in Duke-sponsored campaign donations), to change his mind about burdensome federal regulation. His state’s toothless regulators will now “partner” with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pursue joint enforcement against the utility.
Previously, McCrory had scorned the Feds as an impediment to efficient business practices, and made a great show of turning down EPA grant money. Meanwhile, arguing strenuously against stricter regulation of coal ash has been an industry front group called ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) financed by — you guessed it — those well-known philanthropists David and Charles Koch.
Americans for Prosperity, indeed.
Gene Lyons is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.