Duke Energy Cost Cutting Gets In The Way Of Safety

For the last four years, the Town of Chapel Hill has had a unique agreement with Duke Energy that they not spray herbicides under most of our power lines within town limits, due to our concerns that such herbicides are toxic generally, that they seep into our groundwater, and because very tall pine trees that were sprayed have died and turned brown. Such leftover groupings of large dead trees have been deemed a fire hazard by our Town Fire Chief.  

At a recent council meeting, Duke Energy was back, telling the Town it wanted to start its spraying again, because it was a nuisance that the Town was the only one in which they had an agreement, and that they wanted to spray tree stumps with herbicides so they didn’t have to keep coming back to take care of that growth. 

When I told Duke Energy’s representatives that night that our Fire Chief had said that the large groups of dead brown trees that they had sprayed were a fire hazard, they said that was subject to debate. They had never heard of a fire coming from those trees and that they would just eventually fall over. I had to of course inform him of my personal experience seeing a fire start in an easement with a cigarette thrown in the easement and a very swift moving fire of those pine trees under the power lines that threatened our neighborhood. Duke Energy may think our Fire Chief’s analysis is subject to debate, but facts are facts. 

Duke Energy has said that costs prohibit bush hogging their 56,000 miles of easements. What cost is life and limb and the respiratory tracts of citizens in dense cities in which this spraying of large trees occurs? Duke Energy needs to treat their easements differently in dense cities and towns across the state, and mitigate the fire hazards they have left in the wake of their COST cutting.


Support For An Independent Investigation of Yates Incident

Watching the inner workings of the Chapel Hill Town Government has been an education. I’ve learned how an unwarranted, dangerous SERT unit deployed at the scene of a mere misdemeanor can turn into a two-month long effort by the Mayor, certain members of the Town Council, the Town Manager, and the Police Chief to prevent the real facts of that weekend from surfacing.

I want to thank the Community Policing Advisory Committee for rising to the occasion in a way that our elected officials could not. And I want to reiterate my thanks and support for Councilmembers Easthom and Storrow – they stuck to their conscience and did not let political pressure corrupt their good intentions. As the four silent protesters made known during Monday night’s meeting, we in the community will not forget the decisions this Council has made, and who made them.

It’s important to note that it’s not the legality of the Yates building’s occupation that’s in question, or whether one is for or against the law enforcement – it’s the militarized response to this occupation, and the resulting obstruction of truth by the government, that I and many others have been protesting.

I’m well beyond disappointment at the Council’s decision to refer, and inevitably reject, the request for an independent investigation by the committee which they appointed. It is the ultimate irony that this committee, to the Council’s surprise, proposed the very same independent investigation that Jim Neal had brought to them in November.

Hardly anyone, aside from Ms. Easthom and Mr. Storrow, so much as acknowledged the many statements we gave Monday night that indicated pro bono and private funding are both viable options for making this investigation a financial possibility.

Carrboro Alderman Dan Coleman wrote a moving piece for the Carrboro Citizen, and concludes it with a relevant statement, that when citizens demand justice, elected officials are sworn to uphold the laws of the state that are often designed, in the interest of wealth and power, to sustain those very injustices. But as moral beings, they have an obligation to find a way to support the cause of justice despite such limitations. I wish more members on the Chapel Hill Town Council had stronger moral fiber, and had advocated for truth, justice, and transparency instead of a desperate and increasingly convoluted cover-up.

The facts will indeed surface, in a lawsuit, but this may take time. In the interim, I’m going to keep criticizing the government’s complete irresponsibility and ineptitude, and make sure the silenced voices are heard.