Governor McCrory may want to consider Flint

A few months ago, the state of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality said the water was safe to drink near a coal ash site, only one year after saying it was not. I think many of us were puzzled by this reversal and I am sure that affected residents were in some disbelief.

Apparently, they would have been wise to not believe this reversal per the testimony of Ken Rudo, a state toxicologist. In his testimony, he chastised the leadership of the Department for its reversal saying they were endangering the public and made criticisms of the governor for at least being aware of the change in position.

Last week, the state epidemiologist, Megan Davies, resigned due to the Governor McCrory administration’s “false narrative.” The McCrory administration said Rudo lied under oath and both the state health director and assistant secretary in the Department of Environmental Quality fired off a public statement saying “Rudo’s unprofessional approach…does a disservice to public health and environmental protections in North Carolina.”

Really? I am having a hard time reconciling how being precautious does a disservice to public health. We only need to look north to Flint, Michigan and see what happens when state officials mask the risk of toxic water to a population. Nine current and former state of Michigan officials have been now been criminally charged because of hiding a problem which caused lead poisoning in a number of children and adults. As of yesterday, the problem is still being remedied with an increase in non-lead exposed homes from a low of 9% last fall to 45% as announced by Virginia Tech who is monitoring the progress.

Let’s break this issue in North Carolina down further. A toxicologist testifies under oath to inform the court that people living near the coal ash sites have remained at risk to dangerous toxins in their water. If he is lying, he will go to jail for perjury. His boss, an epidemiologist, resigns in support of the toxicologist’s claims. She left her job at a personal financial cost to protest the misrepresentation to the public. And, we are supposed to ignore these scientists and believe the governor’s administration? It should be noted the governor used to work for and remains a friend of the company whose coal ash is causing the issues.

So, my recommendation would be to believe the scientists who have risked so much to tell the story that the public may have been lied to about the safety of their drinking water. I would also recommend the governor’s administration take this seriously and revisit the issue. Because if they don’t and it turns out that Rudo and Davies are indeed correct, some folks in the McCrory administration may be censured, fired or worse. And, that might include the man running to keep his office, whether he wins or not.

For more on the story prior to Davies’ resignation, please refer to the attached link to a PBS Newshour report.

16 thoughts on “Governor McCrory may want to consider Flint

    • Hugh, that seems to be a trend especially with our Republican legislators. When this change was announced a few months ago, my wife and I commented that seemed to be premature. Obviously, it was in the state toxicologist’s eyes. To me, this reaction and control by the governor’s folks is extremely poor form. Thanks for commenting, Keith

  1. Note to Readers: Seeing the recommended reading noted beneath this post, I am reminded that Erin Brockovich is now involved with our coal ash clean up and water advocacy here in NC. To me, that us evidence of leaders not looking out for the best interests of citizens.

  2. Note to Readers: When the cost model for coal energy is calculated, it rarely includes the full cost. It almost always excludes the cost of environmental degradation to acquire, transport, burn and store it and it does not consider the cost of health care and litigation. If a utility is measuring cost, it needs to factor the ongoing maintenance, risk and litigation costs of coal ash during and long after the plant production. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving in a negative way .

  3. If government officials in Michigan had been put on criminal trial, I’m guessing that this would NOT be a situation. The administration wouldn’t have the gall. Because eventually it will be proven and when it is, all they will face is… Censure.

    Censure is the most RIDICULOUS thing we do to politicians. It has absolutely NO impact. I continue to be boggled by it.

    • Few people remember Senator John McCain was censured back in the late 1980s when he was involved with an S&L scandal. By the way, there is an excellent documentary on PBS which discussed Dick Cavett’s role in helping educated the public about Watergate. Only an hour, but very interesting.

      • It means next to nothing politically to be censured. Congressmen are censured and get immediately re-elected by voters who are likely not even aware of it and may not understand its implications.

        When you let government officials be their own investigators and punisher you get censure. They are beaten with a wet noodle in front of an empty chamber.

        And nothing changes.

      • Agreed. We need for people to realize the job is bigger than the incumbent. When the incumbent disgraces the job, then he or she needs to step down. The party matters not.

      • If I had my druthers, punishment for breaking public trust I would make it so that person can no longer run for ANY political office, hold any position in government, any position paid by tax dollars i.e. Contract work, any position in a political party. For life.

        I’d like to add something about a job commenting on public issues but that violates the constitutional rights. But perhaps I would add scarlet A clause requiring disclosure when commenting publicly. I wonder if that’s legal.

      • I think the punishments should be reasonably severe, but maybe not quite as far as you have laid them out. It depends on the degree of offense, but there are certain offenses that should warrant lifetime bans from serving in office.

  4. As with most things, it boils down to a matter of cost vs. conscience. And in that battle, conscience does not seem to win out when politics are involved. Just like climate change, it is a more popular notion to ignore the science, as believing it might require sacrifice. Thanks for this post, Keith … I was not aware of this one, but Gov. McCrory has come under my scrutiny more than once for other things. I will be interested to see how this one is resolved.

    • Jill, he has been such a disappointment, going from a moderate mayor to the mouthpiece for the strident right General Assembly, who runs the show. The Voter ID law being ruled unconstitutional is on top of four other laws which have been ruled such and that does not count HB2 which will be ruled unconstitutional in the future. As for the environmental degradation, under his watch and that of the General Assembly since 2011, many protections have been unwound or made less utile. The response to the Dan River coal ash spill has been poor and then there is this latest water episode with another coal ash leakage over time. Our reputation as a progressive state has waned with his tutelage. Yes, he balanced the budget, but he did it by raising taxes through fees and sales taxes, while cutting the upper end and gutting unemployment benefits. Keith

  5. Note to Readers: A key tenet of the Precautionary Principle, which applies here, is as follows:

    “The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk. These protections can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that provide sound evidence that no harm will result.”

    Source – Wikipedia.

  6. Note to Readers: It came out today that the State Health Director who accused the State Toxicologist of lying under oath, did so without reading the State Toxicologist’s testimony. Read the emboldened quote again in the post. It is a general rule of thumb, that before you accuse someone of perjury, it would be good to read what they said. By the way, Duke Energy said they were going to remove some coal ash ponds and recycle the ash, which has been done elsewhere in road products.

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