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In My Opinion


Mark Washburn: Let’s trick Duke Energy and take their toxic ash

Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.

To address your first question, the Duke Energy coal ash stash became the city’s problem while we were off vacationing. That’s all I can figure, anyway.

So, to bring you up to speed: We’re not going to sweep all that dirty old ash under a new runway, because it might come worming out like toothpaste when The New American Airlines lands its first super-sardine-widebody-megaliner, and then those venomous serpents in Raleigh will cackle, “See! We told you that you didn’t know how to run an airport!” and we just can’t have that. Too big a risk.

Plus, we’ve done the math and to use up all that ash, the runway would have to stretch to, like, Ecuador.

We’ve decided we’re all for helping get ash away from our water supply and shipping it here after hearing some whining about wee toxic metals you might find in some of it.

We know there are few benefits from ingesting arsenic, other than your corpse will stay fresh as a mummy’s for about 4,000 years. But remember that all the bad stuff in the coal ash is there in microscopic quantities, meaning that pound for pound, it’s probably healthier than pure lard topped with ketchup.

So, our city has put on its shrewd hat and here’s our absolute, final, take-it-or-leave-it offer to Duke: You can have 100 acres at the airport to bury your ash, but you must give us 42 acres nearby.

Now, the 42 monstrous acres you give to us must be next to our sprawling, broiling parking lots and have what our metro engineering staff calls “structures” on it, while the measly 100 acres we intend to stick you with contain only trees and dirt.

Sorry to have to drive such a hard bargain, but there was some grumbling after we gave the Panthers $87 million for an escalator and some bling in exchange for not moving to some other city for, um, six years.

See, the thing is that Los Angeles might want a team and might even want ours, so we figured it wouldn’t hurt to be neighborly and spiff up that creaky, old stadium to 22nd century standards. But some Negative Nellies were all like, “Well, Los Angeles has an ‘air’ problem and a ‘traffic’ problem and a ‘gang’ problem and if, after considering all that, they are still dying to move, I will have ‘No’ problem.” Some people have such nerve.

So, we’re having to be mean. But listen – and you didn’t hear this from me – we might be in the market soon for some fill for a new runway. If you want to bury your old ash on that 100 acres, we might be interested in buying back the dirt.

Especially if you’re thinking of moving the ash to Los Angeles.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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