Ash Spill Shows How Watchdog Was Defanged
RALEIGH, N.C. — Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.
“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”
From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”
But when the nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy, spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in early February, those big changes were suddenly playing out in a different light. Federal prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation into the spill and the relations between Duke and regulators at the environmental agency.
This is how Republicans “govern.” We see it here in Tennessee and everywhere Republicans are put in charge. This is what they do. Defang the regulators and those charged with oversight under the guise of “creating jobs,” then when the inevitable happens and and families are forced to truck in their drinking at personal expense, Republican throw up their hands and say, “See! We told you so! We told you government can’t do anything right!”
It’s hard to feel sorry for the very people who keep voting for this nonsense in the first place because they buy into those ridiculous free market fairy tales. Except the sad thing is, we all end up paying.
Privatize gains, socialize losses. It’s the Republican way.