For Immediate Release
September 1, 2016
Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT) Against Coal Ash
Amy Brown, Gaston County resident: 704-301-6209
Roger Hollis, Cleveland County resident: 828-657-4167
Community members call for the truth–and a release of the sworn testimony of Governor’s top aides over coal ash scandal
RALEIGH– Today and tomorrow, top aides in the McCrory administration will testify under oath about a controversial meeting regarding how to word do-not-drink warnings to well owners who live near Duke Energy coal ash pits, and impacted community members are calling for a full public release of these depositions once they are complete.
The scandal surrounding the administration’s handling of water safety warnings for NC residents impacted by Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds came to a head recently when the state’s epidemiologist resigned in protest, claiming the narrative presented by her agency’s leadership “deliberately misleads” residents about the safety of their drinking water. The situation escalated to this point after part of a deposition of state toxicologist of 30 years, Dr. Kenneth Rudo, was released publicly, indicating, among other things, the involvement of those higher up in the administration in the wording of the letters sent to residents. Duke Energy had gone to extreme lengths to keep that deposition from being made public and to determine how parts of it were leaked to an Associated Press reporter. However, impacted community members who are part of the Alliance of Carolinians Together (A.C.T.) Against Coal Ash state that it is the public’s right to know what is being said by public officials under oath, especially when it relates to the safety of their drinking water.
The individuals who will be questioned this week include Governor McCrory’s communications director, Josh Ellis, and chief of staff, Thomas Stith. Earlier this month, Stith had called a 9:30 p.m. news conference to dispute claims by Ken Rudo, going so far as to say he didn’t know why Rudo had “lied under oath”. After this news conference, no one from the administration has produced any evidence to the public to show the governor did not participate in a phone meeting which included Dr. Rudo. Open records requests filed for such information have not been answered. News outlets have reported more depositions could be in the works for staff in other departments such as DHHS communications director, Kendra Gerlach.
Amy Brown, a resident near Duke’s G.G. Allen plant in Gaston County, says, “These individuals made claims that the state toxicologist lied under oath. Now that they are the ones being placed under oath, the public has a right to know if they say the same things under oath as they said at the press conference at 9:30 at night.” Brown adds, “Dr. Rudo spoke to people impacted by well water contamination personally and acted to protect us. Are these state officials speaking on our behalf or are they speaking on behalf of Duke Energy? We deserve to know, and so does every member of the public.”
“We feel that the state has let us down in so many ways in the past and now we want to know what they are saying now that they are under oath,” expressed Bobby Jones, who lives in Goldsboro near the H.F. Lee plant and represents the Down East Coal Ash Coalition, part of ACT Against Coal Ash. “Instead of questionable communication and more closed door meetings between top utility executives and our governor, the public deserves to be told the truth. That’s why these documents becoming public is so important.”
Roger Hollis, who lives near Duke’s Cliffside power plant in Cleveland County, adds, “It is truly a shame and disgrace to have to require our government and officials to testify under oath so that the truth will come out. When the truth comes out, if it does, community members and people who elected these officials should be able to know.”
This is a rare opportunity for the people of North Carolina to be able to see what these public servants say while under oath with regard to how they have participated in the meetings around well water contamination near Duke Energy’s power plants. That is why ACT Against Coal Ash is calling for a full public release of these depositions once they are complete.