Coal is only “clean” if you silence the scientists who say otherwise

Chalk up another black mark against North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory. His administration has been pretending that mountains of coal ash couldn’t possibly be contaminating drinking water in the state. Their obstinance has finally led to the resignation of one of the state’s leading scientists.

North Carolina’s state epidemiologist resigned Wednesday to protest her employer’s depiction that “deliberately misleads” how screening standards were created to test private wells near Duke Energy’s power plants.

Dr. Megan Davies’ immediate resignation after seven years on the job deepens a rift between Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration and some of the state’s top public health scientists. McCrory is a former Duke employee who is running for a second term as governor.

The millions of tons of coal ash stored at Duke’s power plants has contaminated groundwater under them. State tests last year found that cancer-causing chemicals were present in hundreds of nearby private wells, although Duke denies coal ash is the source.

So wait…where is the vanadium and hexavalent chromium, carcinogens that are found in relatively high concentration in coal ash, coming from? This is one that would be tough to blame on transgender men and women — they just don’t have the magic powers that would do that. If it’s not the coal ash, the only remaining possibility really is magic…which means we’re going to have to blame Jesus. Why does Jesus hate North Carolina? Logically, the answer must be that he hates them because they elected a wanker named McCrory.


  1. Siobhan says

    This is one that would be tough to blame on transgender men and women — they just don’t have the magic powers that would do that.

    Don’t be such a pessimist, PZ. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @1:
    oh course: LGBT activists don’t have power themselves to work such magik, but Gawd is always flinging around curses that hit everybody around the target of his temper tantrum. Gawd has awful aim for such an omnipotent being. OTOH it seems he is always accepting of the blame flung around by his fans. The fans always accuse Gawd of throwing around curses and missing by miles. hmmm some fans, they really love their Sire of Jesus eh,
    to change the subject (slightly)
    Currently an Alaskan poli (not Palin) is brandishing a bumper sticker of Energy is Good which is only half true. Yes Energy itself is good, what she is trying to convey is that its good overwhelms any badness of the source of the energy, specifically oil and fossil fuels. She’s brandishing it against the proponents of renewable sources and the opposition to oil drilling.
    Like Oliver pointed out in the IAP [aka oil industry propagandizer] ads. Current energy use has reduced CO2 by 40% [they say], conveniently leaving out it may be due to the expansion of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar which can produce energy without producing CO2.

  3. vucodlak says

    Shame on you for suggesting the Republicans might blame the pollution on LGBT people!

    Everybody knows that furriners are the ones who poison wells.

  4. Siobhan says

    Everybody knows that furriners are the ones who poison wells.

    I thought they were busy stealing jobs? –Err, “jerbs.”

  5. JoeBuddha says

    Actually, it’s not LGBT folx, but Gay Marriage. Now, give me 3 Benghazies and one bathroom bill…

  6. lepidoptera says

    McCrory and his challenger Cooper recently agreed to a second public gubernatorial debate on October 11th. I wonder if they will get asked any questions about coal ash and drinking water.

    Also, RealClear Politics reported on August 12th the results of a NBC/WSJ/Marist election poll that indicated Cooper 51 and McCrory 44 (Cooper+7).

  7. ck, the Irate Lump says

    JoeBuddha wrote:

    Actually, it’s not LGBT folx, but Gay Marriage.

    I think you’ll find that it’s His punishment for tolerating abortion. His divine aim seems to always target those places that are least tolerant of the practice and have the most laws prohibiting it, but we must not question His ways.

  8. Holms says

    If it’s not the coal ash, the only remaining possibility really is magic…which means we’re going to have to blame Jesus.


  9. wzrd1 says

    Well, on the non-sarcastic, serious side (yeah, I know that’s unusual for me), I have indeed saw clean coal with my very own eyes.
    As part of a municipal water filtration system. To be precise, in the front end, where it helped capture and neutralized volatile chemicals from the untreated water feed.

    I mean, really now, with all of that water washing over it, it’s *got* to be clean, right?
    Yeah, the non-sarcastic side didn’t last all that long, did it? But, I have actually saw operational municipal water filter designs, which are in active usage today and have been for decades, which utilize anthracite in the front end and are highly effective. I did fail to learn a few things, such as how long the anthracite is used before it has to be replaced and what to do with the contaminated anthracite after it’s absorbed all that it can.

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 9:
    joining you in nonsarcasm mode, seriously.

    Clean Carbon has been recently used as a brand for a weird method of burning coal that is still clean for the environment,
    Which is completely contradictory.
    Activated Charcoal used as a filtration system to clean water or air is not what the branding refers to. Possibly refers to burning coal with electrostatic scrubbers in the chimneys to filter out all the ash from flodding the atmosphere, preventing acid rain.
    No matter how clean the exhaust is of ash or other pollutants, the issue is CO2. period.
    Burning C produces CO2 by definition, no way to get around it. grade school chemistry. Extremely basic chemical reaction, no wiggle room available.

    apologies for ranting. “Clean Coal” sets me off.

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    addendum to @10:
    activated carbon is very different than carbon ash. activation results from a careful baking process that does not actually burn the carbon. ash is the result of burning the
    *cough* *cough*
    or so I understand

  12. wzrd1 says

    @#10 and #11, yeah, one of my clients, years ago, was the HQ of Roberts Filter Group. Heard a *lot* about anthracite filter beds. Activated charcoal is OK in small scale, but rapidly binds to uselessness in high volume applications.
    I remember being mildly surprised at the number of military installations where my drinking water was filtered through that company’s filter plant.

  13. illdoittomorrow says

    McCrory is aformer current Duke employee asset who is running for a second term as governor.


    So wait…where is the vanadium and hexavalent chromium, carcinogens that are found in relatively high concentration in coal ash, coming from?

    Libruls! It’s all part of the conspiracy! This is Hillary’s doing!

  14. wzrd1 says

    For those wondering about fly ash… It’s not only coal, but also oil…
    Radioactive as well (oil is as well, for the same reasons)

    Just for a few reference, there are plenty more, but I’m sure that a more dedicated environmentalist can provide a wheelbarrow more of than I’ve quickly found.

  15. blf says

    Somewhat related, Q&A smackdown: Brian Cox brings graphs to grapple with Malcolm Roberts (“One Nation” is Ozland’s nazi party):

    One Nation senator-elect asks repeatedly for ‘empirical data’ — and the celebrity physicist has plenty at hand

    The celebrity physicist Brian Cox came prepared to the ABC’s Q&A on Monday night with graphs, ready to counter claims by his co-panellist, the climate denier and Australian senator-elect Malcolm Roberts.

    Roberts […], took the first opportunity to espouse long-refuted climate-denialist claims, including that warming stopped more than 20 years ago, starting the so-called “hiatus” or “pause”.

    But Cox produced a graph of global surface temperatures of the past century and immediately debunked the myth, pointing out it is a misunderstanding caused by looking at a small sample, starting from an unusually warm year two decades ago.

    Cox didn’t stop there. “Also, secondly, I’ve brought another graph. It is correlated with that, which is the graph that shows the CO2 emissions parts per million in.”

    Viewers on Twitter joined in. When Roberts argued that sea level rises had been entirely natural and normal, a number of people posted graphs showing the steep rises.

    Roberts repeatedly said he wanted to see “the empirical data”. But when the data appeared to refute what he said, he argued that scientists had conspired to manipulate it.

    The facts don’t agree with my lies, therefore the facts must be wrong! And it’s a conspiracy!! And I’m
    Galileo!!! (Really — see next link, he “is the ‘project leader’ of a group called the Galileo Movement[, which claims to expose] the political fabrication of global warming alarm.”)

    This nutter made even wackier claims during the recent Ozland election (One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts vows to halt ridiculous lies on climate change):

    I’ve done a lot of research into climate, he said at a media conference on Thursday. I went looking into the agencies that have been spreading the climate science. I started finding out things about the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology. That led me then to the UN, which has been driving this. Then I started following the money trails.

    He went on to explain that they could be traced back to a few families who are making trillions of dollars.

    Then, for extra giggles, it seems this seriously deluded kook may be, or support, Ozland’s version of the “sovereign citizen” lunacy.