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The McCrory Administration’s “Do Not Drink” Timeline

A comparison of Dr. Megan Davies deposition to reporting on coal ash corroborates Dr. Kenneth Rudo’s claims about McCrory’s office intervening on “do not drink” orders. Davies and Rudo both testified that McCrory administration officials “pressured public health scientists to relax” drinking water standards for residents living near coal ash. Davies deposition has been public since May of 2016, and has not been previously disputed by McCrory administration.

“The truth will eventually become clear in this spat, but there’s a larger truth that’s already clear and worrisome: The state officials charged with protecting us were more interested in their own political protection than about telling the public there were carcinogens in their water.  In cases like this, we expect public-health officials to err on the side of abundant caution, not on the side of political cover.  In that mission, our government has already failed.”

– Fayetteville Observer, Editorial, 8/3/16

Timeline

March 2015 “Several” calls took place with DHHS staff and Josh Ellis regarding “concern over wording on the Health Risk Evaluation form” (Davies deposition, P. 45; 5/4/16)
3/10/15 DENR issues $25.1M fine on Duke Energy for coal ash leakage at Wilmington area plant (9/29/15 Duke and DEQ settle for $7M) (WRAL, 3/10/15; WRAL, 9/29/15)
3/15/15 Rudo removed his name due to DENR insistence in including language Rudo considered misleading (Rudo Deposition, P. 128; 7/11/16)
3/24/15 Duke announces plans to appeal DENR fine (WRAL, 3/24/15)
4/2/15 Toxicologist Ken Rudo met with Kendra Gerlach and Josh Ellis to discuss “do not drink orders,” claimed McCrory called in to meeting (Rudo Deposition, P. 42,  7/11/16)
4/11/15 McCrory refused to sign bill that includes funding for coal ash commission (AP, 4/11/15)
4/21/15 Sample “Do Not Drink” letters residents received became public, included confusing language that Rudo objected to (Twitter, 4/21/15; WSOC, “do not drink” letter; 4/15/15)
June 2015 Davies said second meeting with Duke lobbyist occurred in person in June 2015 (Davies deposition, PP. 29-30; 5/4/16)
6/1/15 McCrory hosts private dinner with DEQ Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Counsel with Duke CEO and Counsel (WRAL, 1/6/16)
6/5/15 McCrory admin. gives Duke permission to move coal ash to clay mines against local wishes (WRAL, 1/6/16)
9/29/15 DEQ and Duke Energy agree to $7 million settlement (Settlement of $25M fine levied 3/10/15) (WRAL, 9/29/15; WRAL, 3/10/15)
7/19/16 Duke Energy attorneys asked federal court for protective order to prevent SELC from releasing transcripts of Rudo’s deposition (News & Observer, 7/19/16)
8/2/16 McCrory Chief of Staff Thomas Stith called late-night press conference saying Rudo “lied under oath” and stated McCrory “absolutely did not take part in or request this call or meeting” (WRAL, 8/2/16)
8/9/16 Stith LTE claiming McCrory administration went “above and beyond” to give public “all information possible to ensure public safety and transparency” (News & Observer, Thomas Stith LTE; 8/9/16)
8/9/16 Reeder and Williams editorial “criticized Rudo” and his “unprofessional approach” for standards that were “far more stringent than those used in other states” (NC DEQ, Williams and Reeder Op-Ed, 8/9/16; Charlotte Observer, 8/10/16)
8/10/16 State epidemiologist Megan Davies resigned, saying “I cannot work for a department and administration that deliberately misleads the public.” (Charlotte Observer, 8/10/16

Between March and June 2015, Duke Energy lobbied state to reverse “do not drink” order, and in March 2015, Governor’s Office asked DHHS for letters to reflect federal standards were not exceeded.

State epidemiologist Megan Davies testified that “Duke Energy lobbied state health and environmental officials to reverse a ‘do not drink’ order.”  According to Davies, two meetings took place between DHHS staff and Duke officials before the “do not drink” letters were sent to coal ash residents in June 2015.  Davies said the first meeting was by phone “sometime between March and June” 2015 and the second meeting was in person in June 2015.  Davies also testified that “several” calls took place between DHHS staff and Josh Ellis from the Governor’s Office in March 2015 regarding the “do not drink” letters, specifically that the Governor’s Office expressed “concern over wording on the Health Risk Evaluation form,” and wanted to have wording reflecting that federal standards had not been exceeded.

In April 2015, State Toxicologist Rudo was summoned to speak with Governor’s Office about wording on “do not drink” letters

In April 2015, while Duke Energy continued to lobby for “do not drink” reversal, toxicologist Ken Rudo was “summoned” to McCrory’s office to discuss water safety warnings.  McCrory called Josh Ellis during April 2nd 2015 meeting and, according to Rudo, “their concern was initially telling people not to drink the water” and that doing so, “was a pretty strong thing to do.”  Rudo also stated that in his 27 years of experience, he had “never talked to a Governor” and he had never been asked to retract Health Risk Evaluations.

Also in April 2015, after Governor’s Office met with Rudo, “Do Not Drink” letters were sent to residents that included “watered down” language preferred by Duke 

In mid-April 2015, residents received letters that NC Division of Public Health recommended not drinking or cooking with their water, but their water “would still meet all the criteria” of federal standards.

On June 1st, 2015, McCrory hosted a private dinner with DEQ Secretary, Chief of Staff, Duke CEO, and McCrory continues to evade questions regarding dinner meeting.

During the months that Duke lobbied the McCrory administration, Duke received favorable outcomes in at least three other instances:

  • Duke Energy’s Sweet Deal: DENR issued a $25.1M fine in March 2015 against Duke, and later settled for $7M in September 2015
  • In April 2015, McCrory refused to sign a bill including funding for the coal ash commission, noting that a three-judge panel ruled the commission unconstitutional.  Concerning the coal ash commission, even Berger thought “McCrory’s true motive has more to do with Duke Energy.”
  • The McCrory administration gave Duke permission to move coal ash to clay mines, despite local opposition “just days after the dinner” with Duke CEO and other officials.