The Report Card issues grades A through F, and incompletes where necessary, to a variety of news items in this space.
Got an idea that makes the grade? Send it to JBuchanan@CITIZEN-TIMES.com
F to Duke Energy for the toxic coal ash spill into the Dan River from its coal ash lagoon. It’s the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history. After a Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash dam burst more than five years ago, releasing 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash into neighboring rivers, environmental voices have continued to called for coal ash to be stored in a more responsible manner. And for the last five years, Duke Energy has assured the public they were not polluting groundwater, had not harmed the health of fish, that there was no impact to human health, and their coal ash dams are safe and not liable to burst. Just last month, Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert rejected environmentalists’ calls for the coal ash ponds to be cleaned up, saying “Special interest groups rely on emotion, not facts, to advance their mission to phase out coal.” Every claim Duke Energy has made about their coal ash problems have proven to be false — and the Dan River disaster should be the final straw toward getting Duke to clean up its coal ash problem on the French Broad River and around the state.
Hartwell Carson, Asheville
D to questionable practices surrounding appointments of U.S. ambassadors. While hot-button assignments are usually handled with care, there’s a long-running patronage system regarding other appointments. This was highlighted last week during confirmation hearings for political consultant Noah Mamet, nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to Argentina. Mamet’s resume is reportedly quite impressive, but it’s easy to wonder if his most impressive achievement was bundling more than half a million dollars for President Obama’s reelection campaign. During the hearings, it was revealed Mamet has never actually been to Argentina.
A to Eblen Charities, Blossman Gas, Appliance and Service, Duke Progress and others helping keep families warn in the relentless winter of 2014. Eblen executive director Bill Murdock said employees and volunteers worked overtime last week to serve those seeking help through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, or LIEAP. The federal program provides a one-time payment to help low-income families with utility bills. Eblen administers the low-income energy program for Buncombe County. On Feb. 1, eligibility for the program expanded to include all low-income families, not just those with children or someone with a disability in the household. Officials say this year the county is getting more money through the program. Buncombe is set to receive about $1.3 million in LIEAP funds this year, according to county officials. In addition, the county received some money from Duke Progress to assist families with their utility bills. Blossman Gas, Appliance and Service also donated $10,000 to Eblen for the LIEAP program. The company also donated money to Jackson, Swain, Avery and Haywood counties. Murdock said Eblen has made an effort to go to apartment buildings and area businesses to try to reach those who can’t make it to the Eblen offices. Low income families can contact Bill Murdock at Eblen Charities at 242-2848 for heating assistance. Companies can also contact Eblen about helping employees who may need assistance.
A for Mountain Area Child and Family Center for their stability and strength during the economic downturn. While many organizations have faced uncertainty, the nonprofit early care and education center’s Executive Director, Jacque Penick, has ensured its continued growth. Though it hasn’t been the easiest 10 years to move forward with policy or funding, the organization has been able to support many children and families who needed their services the most. Penick celebrates 10 years this month as their Executive Director and has pioneered programs such as Rainbow In My Tummy, a nutrition enrichment program that is improving the quality of food served in early care and education centers. She also remains a strong advocate for high quality affordable care and education for all children in our community.”
F to the latest scam being run in the area. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives, including Haywood Electric and French Broad Electric are warning members to beware of a utility bill scam targeting individuals and businesses statewide. Scam activity has increased significantly recently. “We’ve been getting calls from the mountains to the coast,” said Jane Pritchard of the N.C. Electric Membership Corporation, which represents the state’s 26 co-ops. There have been specific complaints from residents served by Blue Ridge Electric Cooperation, which includes Avery and Watauga counties. Cooperative members across North Carolina have received phone calls from imposters claiming to be a representative of their electric cooperative and demanding payment. Often scammers ask for personal account information or threaten to disconnect service if immediate payment is not made by prepaid credit or debit card. In some cases, scammers have even falsified their caller ID to reflect a utility company’s name. If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to represent your electric cooperative, hang up, call your cooperative and report the scam attempt to local law enforcement.