Earth Stewards Blog

A variety of information and inspiration on how we as Christians can be better stewards of God's gift to us, our planet

The Golden Rule and Coal Ash

Posted by admin on April 12, 2015



In everything do to others as you would have them do to you.  Matthew 7:12a

This is the third in a series on the Coal Ash Spill of February 2014

Duke Energy is a corporation and the largest utility company in our nation.  According to the 2013 annual report, Duke booked a profit of $2,700,000,000 and paid out $2,188,000,000 in dividends to their shareholders in that period. 

There is a long tradition in America of prudent regulation of public utilities, which, for reasons of efficiency, have been granted monopolies by society to serve the needs of the public.  Sometimes, we must consider how well regulators are carrying out their mandate.  People are direct creations of God.  We will be held accountable in the end for our stewardship of God’s Creation.  Manmade constructs like public utilities and corporations will come and go.  One of the most powerful tools we have for providing oversight of manmade activities are political mechanisms.  Of course, political systems are human constructs and very fallible, but they are what we have at our disposal.  

A recent article in a peer reviewed journal estimates the first six month’s cost of the February 2014 Duke coal ash spill at $295,000,000.  This total is expected to climb substantially as the work of North Carolina and Virginia and two federal agencies (see February’s article) grapple with the immensity of this situation.  This initial six month cost figure represents approximately 11% of Duke Energy’s profit realized for 2013.  Last week, the New York Times reported that North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) released draft permits for the first three of the 14 coal ash dump sites across the state.  There are 32 coal ash dumps at these 14 sites.  According to the Times, the permit for the Riverbend site near Charlotte would add “…’12 potentially contaminated groundwater seeps’ in the dump’s earthen dam to Riverbend’s allowed discharges-the same leaks cited as violations last month.  Riverbend’s wastewater discharges into Mountain Island Lake, 3 miles upstream from the main intake of  Charlotte’s drinking water supply.” 

If you feel your elected officials should be providing the counterbalance to profit making by enacting and enforcing laws that preserve and maintain that which God made and put us in charge of, then you must use your personal influence.  We can communicate to our elected officials that we want Duke Energy to clean up their coal ash spill and the damages it resulted in to our water, soil and air and that they should use the profits they have already made to clean up their disaster and not require the people to pay for cleanup through rate increases.  Many of the sites Duke is considering capping and closing are unlined ponds filled with coal ash that can continue to leak into groundwater.  The state law passed last August grants Duke 14 years to clean up or cap all of its coal ash dumps in North Carolina.  The waste from coal burned to generate electricity, the ash, contains toxic arsenic, selenium, chromium and mercury.  We must all demand that they clean up their mess thoroughly.

Last week, on 12 March, a 60 day comment period began on a proposed water quality certification, a requirement before coal ash can be moved to open pit clay mines in central North Carolina.  If you would like to comment on this plan, you can send your email to with “401” in the subject line.  You may also comment by mail to 401 Permitting, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C., 27699-1617.

Remember the publishing phenomenon of a number of years ago:  “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum?   Some of those truisms are as follows:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life -

Learn some and think some

And draw and paint and sing and dance

And play and work everyday some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world,

Watch out for traffic,

Hold hands and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

We have a fiduciary responsibility to advocate that Duke Energy do the right thing for our region and state.  Let’s hold hands and be stewards and leaders together.  Pick up the phone, keyboard or pen and advocate that your elected officials serve the people (see contact list below).  Follow the Moravian Way of conservation and use energy and material goods in a way pleasing to God.  Consider supporting NC Green Power, striving to create more renewable energy resources in our state for as little as $4/month at this link.  Consider supporting Interfaith Power and Light whose mission is to be faithful stewards of Creation by responding to global warming through the promotion of energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy ( 

Let’s hold hands and stick together.  And be aware of wonder.  In the end, these are among the greatest gifts we have from God.  

Elected Official Links:

North Carolina House and Senate Representation lists can be found by clicking here.

United States Congressional Representation lists can be found by clicking here.