McCrory on defensive over coal ash spill

Posted February 14, 2014
Updated March 9, 2014

— A winter storm news conference Friday took a tense turn when reporters pushed Gov. Pat McCrory for details on his response to the recent Dan River coal ash spill.

The spill, which began Feb. 2 in Rockingham County, released at least 80,000 tons of toxic coal ash from a Duke Energy-owned retention pond into the Dan River, upstream of water intakes for several Virginia cities. It's estimated to be the third-largest coal ash spill in the nation's history. 

The spill wasn't halted until a rusted drainage pipe was plugged five days later. On Thursday, state environmental officials announced the plug itself had leaked 1,000 gallons of wastewater into the river before it, too, was repaired.

Also Thursday, federal prosecutors announced they've opened a criminal probe into the spill, issuing subpoenas to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Duke Energy for documents and communications related to the pond from 2010 to the present. 

McCrory is a former employee of Duke Energy who still holds stock in the company in his 401(k) account. The company has also been a major donor to the McCrory campaign and to third-party groups that have spent large sums on the governor's behalf. 

The Associated Press reported recently that DENR has intervened three times in the past year alone to override citizen lawsuits seeking to force Duke Energy to clean up coal ash ponds.

During the question-and-answer period after Friday's winter storm update, McCrory took exception to a reporter's question about whether he had communicated with Duke Energy or its lobbyists about his administration's intervention into those lawsuits.

"I have had no conversations with Duke Energy about the lawsuits or about the federal action," McCrory responded. "I think some of the premise of your question is totally inaccurate."

Visibly irritated, he added that he would "have [DENR] Secretary [John] Skvarla give you a call and make some of those corrections." 

Another reporter asked the governor whether his ownership of Duke Energy stock creates a conflict or the appearance of a conflict of interest for him.

"In my 14 years as mayor of Charlotte and my one year as governor, I separate my job as governor, and I’m very proud of the job we’ve done as governor, and that regards to any company in North Carolina," McCrory answered.   

When a reporter attempted to follow up, McCrory shouted him down. "Excuse me, sir! Excuse me, sir! You have not been recognized!" 

When the reporter tried again, McCrory admonished him, "It's no time to be disrespectful."


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  • jnelson631 Feb 20, 2014

    No sir, Governor, neither you, DENR, or Duke Power do not not get to be defensive. I live on Kerr lake and I, and fellow north carolinians, get that honor. Our governor worked for Duke. Duke gave the governor and other leaders lots of campaign money. The governor appoints a man, who also has ties to Duke, with oversight and regulatory control over them. We get little oversight and accidents happen. Due to this dereliction of duty, outside environmental groups are forced to do what the state was negligent in doing. The man, appointed by the governor, blocks the environmental groups from attacking Duke in court and gives them a sweet heart settlement deal. Then the big spill. Duke has a record accident impacting the water supply of hundreds of thousands of people (sorry va beach). Now the governor, the man he appointed, and other leaders that received campaign cash, claim they hand no hand in any of this. No sir..you do not get to be defensive.

  • vply2000 Feb 19, 2014

    Check out DENR secretary interview on WNCN, credible or incredulous? Maybe his former company will "mitigate" this wetland mess and sell the "banked credits" to other developers. Or check out the law on the private suits against DE not being allowed to go forward while DENR was settling. When "Asked if he thought a $99,111 fine with no requirement that Duke clean up its coal ash dumps was a settlement in the best interests of the people of North Carolina, Skvarla suggested the now-scuttled deal was better than getting caught in a protracted legal fight against the energy giant."

  • 42_wral_mods_suck_i'm_gone Feb 18, 2014

    When a reporter attempted to follow up, McCrory shouted him down. "Excuse me, sir! Excuse me, sir! You have not been recognized!"

    McCrory shouting and getting people fired. He's losing it.

  • Nope Feb 17, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Hmm. You mean they built up for many years, years that pat was working at the company that created the mess?

  • Alex25 Feb 17, 2014

    Earth WILL survive. Relax ............. jeez

  • John Paul Bertke Feb 17, 2014
    user avatar

    "So according to some on here, McCrory is at fault and my fellow shareholders and employees are at fault too, even though we've had no hand in the ash spill" - uscnnc

    "Your fingerprints are on this. You cannot avoid that. You own the company that is responsible." - alicebtoklas

    Fair disclousure: I don't own DUK stock, which is up slightly Friday - which suggests that most investors aren't concerned about the affect of current events in NC on their share price.

    There may be moral issues involved in this investment going forward, but I doubt if most small investors knew about the spills at the time of purchase. In any case, there's nothing illegal about buying and selling DUK stock.

    Of greater interest is: 1) quantifying Duke Energy's dollar responsibility for the current and past spills, and 2) reviewing subpoena'd information to determine if anyone at the State of North Carolina knowingly participated in protecting Duke Energy from their legal responsibilities in these spills.

  • hardycitrus Feb 17, 2014

    Another GOP governor having corruption problems for being way cozy with industry....

  • Kenny Dunn Feb 17, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Your fingerprints are on this. You cannot avoid that. You own the company that is responsible.

  • Smilester Feb 17, 2014

    View quoted thread

    You do know that Pat McCrory worked for Duke Power for 28 years. It is also not surprising that he was in favor of more relaxed environmental laws which were passed in the past year.


    Interesting how it mentions Duke Energy's Coal Ash dumps in the article from this past summer.

  • uscnnc Feb 17, 2014

    So according to some on here, McCrory is at fault and my fellow shareholders and employees are at fault too, even though we've had no hand in the ash spill.