Is Pat McCrory’s DHHS Willing to Jeopardize Lives to Appease the Boss’s Former Employer? | Soapboxer | Indy Week
Pin It

Is Pat McCrory’s DHHS Willing to Jeopardize Lives to Appease the Boss’s Former Employer? 

It's a rare thing when the governor's chief of staff convenes a Tuesday late-night press conference. It's a rarer thing when the governor's chief of staff convenes a Tuesday late-night press conference just to accuse a low-profile bureaucrat of lying under oath.

The bureaucrat in question is Kenneth Rudo, a state toxicologist (and registered Republican) who has worked in the Department of Health and Human Services since 1989. In a July 11 deposition made public earlier this month, Rudo testified that, while the DHHS and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (now the Department of Environmental Quality) had initially agreed that people living near coal ash pits should not drink their well water, the McCrory administration then decided to downplay the risks before sending out do-not-drink notices.

"They wanted us to put it in the statement in the line where we were telling people not to drink their water, basically saying, 'Don't drink the water, but we are overreacting,'' Rudo testified. "That is essentially what it says."

In the spring of 2015, the state sent out nearly four hundred of those notices, which reassured well owners that their wells met federal drinking-water standards. (Unmentioned: no federal standards exist for hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen associated with coal ash.) A year later, however, after Duke Energy (which denies that coal ash has contaminated private wells) and legislative staffers lobbied state officials, the administration rescinded the warning, telling homeowners that their water "is as safe to drink as water in most cities and towns across the state and country."

Last Tuesday, a week after that late-night press conference, DHHS and DEQ leaders penned an editorial arguing that Rudo's "inconsistent scientific conclusions" had given rise to "unnecessary fear and confusion." That didn't sit well with Megan Davies, the state's epidemiologist. The next day, she resigned, saying she couldn't "work for a department and administration that deliberately misleads the public."

McCrory's DHHS isn't unfamiliar with scandal. Over the years, it's been criticized for everything from nepotism to excessive overtime, and twice the feds threatened to cut off food-stamp funds because the DHSS wasn't processing applications quickly enough.

But this is worse than bureaucratic ineptitude. This—if you believe Rudo and Davies—is a case of political hacks cravenly lying to people about the safety of their own drinking water. Even if there's debate over the science, the responsible administration errs on the side of caution. This administration erred on the side of a $23.5 billion-a-year corporation that so happens to be Governor McCrory's former employer. And it's not the first time.

After the Dan River spill in 2014, the state fined Duke $25 million. But last year, after McCrory and DEQ officials met secretly with Duke officials, regulators negotiated that settlement down to $6.6 million. Then, just last month, McCrory signed into law House Bill 630, which requires the DEQ to reclassify most of Duke's coal ash pits from "intermediate" to "low" risk if the utility provides neighbors with clean drinking water. The "low" assessment, in turn, allows the utility to cap the coal ash in place rather than excavating it, which would have been much more expensive.

So we have a pattern—and a potentially damning one at that. To my mind, if it's true that McCrory's team is willing to jeopardize lives to appease a corporate benefactor, then he has no business occupying the Executive Mansion. I suspect most voters would agree.

The question for voters, then, is this: Do you believe that Rudo and Davies, who have little to gain from putting their necks on the line, are lying? Or do you think the McCrory administration is trying to cover its ass?

This article appeared in print with the headline "The DHSS Dumpster Fire"

  • What this latest scandal tells us about the McCrory administration’s priorities

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Soapboxer



Twitter Activity

Comments

Some verifiable proof, instead of politically-inspired allegations of Donald Trump's crimes against the country, would be nice for a change. …

by Rataplan on Donald Trump Is an Incompetent Menace. Just Impeach Him Already. (Soapboxer)

The author states that we have an imperfect system. Indeed. And his rationale of voting for the lesser of two …

by datdood on Loathe Hillary? Fine. Vote for Her, Anyway. Democracy Depends on It. (Soapboxer)

Most Read

  1. Blast from the Past. (Peripheral Visions)

Most Recent Comments

Some verifiable proof, instead of politically-inspired allegations of Donald Trump's crimes against the country, would be nice for a change. …

by Rataplan on Donald Trump Is an Incompetent Menace. Just Impeach Him Already. (Soapboxer)

The author states that we have an imperfect system. Indeed. And his rationale of voting for the lesser of two …

by datdood on Loathe Hillary? Fine. Vote for Her, Anyway. Democracy Depends on It. (Soapboxer)

Hillary is like prune juice. You don't really care for it and it is hard to swallow. But if you …

by DR B on Loathe Hillary? Fine. Vote for Her, Anyway. Democracy Depends on It. (Soapboxer)

If they cared about democracy they wouldn't have made a mockery of it during the primary.

by musicfounds on Loathe Hillary? Fine. Vote for Her, Anyway. Democracy Depends on It. (Soapboxer)

Understandable take on the presidential race, but glosses over the benefits a third-party could gain from hitting the 5 percent …

by Ryan Gray on Loathe Hillary? Fine. Vote for Her, Anyway. Democracy Depends on It. (Soapboxer)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation