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To: Duke Energy and NC DEQ, with NC DHHS

Cover Healthcare Costs for Coal Ash Affected Communities

Duke Energy and NC DEQ, with NC DHHS, cover the healthcare costs of community members living within 9 miles of coal-fired power plants in NC, their wet coal ash waste ponds, and dry waste mounds and pits.

HOW: Payments can include private and public subsidies to healthcare bills of coal-affected residents, across insurance systems that are public (Medicaid, Medicare) and private (job-based and ACA partnership with private insurers).

WHO: The true cost of coal ash includes illnesses ranging from childhood and adult cancers to birth defects and infant death, from neurological disorders and partial paralysis in children and parents to heart attacks and strokes in otherwise in-shape people in their 30s-50s, from COPD requiring oxygen tanks to severe asthma in children and elders that keeps them from school, work, or church.

WHERE: Even with improved technologies at steam stations like Belews Creek Steam Station (Stokes County, NC), and 12+ other sites across North Carolina, coal production and coal ash waste send heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and more into the lives of unsuspecting residents. Coal production, even with state of the art technology, cannot be made clean: it heavily pollutes air of surrounding communities in basic weather and wind patterns that travel for miles; it heavily pollutes groundwater tables through basic gravity, which affects the safety of drinking water in surrounding homes and businesses. The nine mile radius is the standard area of exposure concern for polluting facilities as studied by the US EPA.

Why is this important?

WHY: People in the broader public, who do not partake in the private profit of Duke Energy--and its pressure to weaken NC DEQ regulations--should not have to pay with their health and even, sometimes, their lives.

WHAT: Clean and affordable, in-home drinking water is a must. Breathable, healthy air is a must. Homes and homeplaces that did (and should) have monetary value in everyday working families must be protected for the vital (and sometimes sole) investments that they are. Having one's health is also a must--life free from the cancers and lung, heart, brain, skin, and reproductive disorders to which exposure to coal ash toxins are linked.

WHEN: Pay for healthcare coverage costs in a tiered model, triaging first to most-expensive healthcare (brain tumor, rare neurological conditions, strokes and temporary or permanent paralysis, birth defects). Begin in 2020, and continue paying in 2 year increments for healthcare costs incurred by coal ash communities' residents through 2036 when coal ash is fully excavated from ponds; and in steady rates for 30 years following.

Duke Energy and NC DEQ must cover all related costs where residents' homes and businesses test positive for heavy metals, radon, and other coal ash associated dangers. This must occur regardless of other health conditions--since these are usually worsened by exposure to industrial toxins, and should not be abused as a loophole to get out of accountability. Toxic exposures take many different forms in health symptoms--the effects depend on the resident's initial health proclivities and what mix of coal ash metals and carcinogens and radioactive materials they were exposed to, at what times of their life (e.g., childhood, in utero, while pregnant, during adolescent puberty, while a resident, an employee, or a schoolchild). Use the precautionary principle--taking action before it is too late to prevent the massive loss of human potential to morbidity, mortality, and other irreplaceable resources where the true costs of coal ash are reflected and magnified.

BENEFITS: Health is the foundation of everything in one's life--from caring for one's family to keeping a job, from remaining physically mobile and mentally sound, to staying out of debt as incurred from medical care costs. Healthcare coverage costs are rarely factored in to the upfront costs of US coal production and coal ash waste storage, but they are burdensome, unjust, and must be addressed.

Health harms of coal production and coal ash waste storage are dispersed throughout targeted local communities that bear the brunt of coal production harms. Coal-affected communities with steam stations and waste sites in NC are--as they are nationally in what are called "sacrifice zones"--disproportionately lower- and middle-income, split across county/town lines. Within those income and zoning categories, coal and coal waste affected communities often egregiously over-represent people of color in relation to the existing demographics of each region, and among a mix of Black, Brown, and White residents' distribution in affected neighborhoods.

Full coal ash excavation must take place in NC, moving coal ash waste in unlined and seeping ponds and pits instead to lined, un-leaking and well-maintained, above-ground and onsite landfills. The cost and the timeline are not an issue that should delay or minimize plans for full excavation once and for all in NC--which must catch up to SC and VA where excavation is occurring to measurable benefit to local health, water, air, and economies. What matters are the prosperity and vibrancy of local rural communities, the stability of housing, and direct support for human health in NC "environmental justice communities of concern".

IN SUM: Cover healthcare costs of coal ash affected NC communities now--and budget healthcare coverage into the projected "cleanup costs" Duke Energy and NC DEQ are considering. Account for the real costs of coal and lax safety laws to human lives in NC workplaces, rural economies, close-knit communities, and everyday families. Thank you, bless you! It will feel so good to do the right thing!


1. US Commission on Civil Rights on Healthcare Costs for Coal Ash Affected Communities:

FULL TRANSCRIPT: (see highlights)


2. Cancer Clusters--Impossible to Prove but We Still Must Act:



3. Camp Lejeune Act--A Model for Covering Health Costs from Toxic Water, "Janey Esminger Act 2012":



North Carolina

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2019-08-10 07:37:21 -0400

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