Without Duke Energy, Pat McCrory wouldn’t be Governor. Now, with Duke’s coal-ash spill, he may very well be a one-term Governor.
Get some popcorn and get a comfortable chair, because this movie is going to run for a long time. At least through the 2016 election. And it will dominate the rest of McCrory’s time as Governor.
He has to be thinking: “The damned pipe has to burst NOW, when I’m Governor?”
In all his years at Duke, McCrory probably never visited an ash pond. But he worked there for 29 years. He was an executive there while millions of tons of ash accumulated in Duke’s ponds. His administration made environmental regulatory reform a high-profile issue. Then – BOOM! – an environmental catastrophe hits on his watch.
Now he faces an endless reel of front-page stories, revelations about regulatory relationships and demagogic debates over who should pay. (Spoiler alert: In the end, the ratepayers will pay. They always do. No matter what posturing politicians promise.)
And then there’s the dead-serious matter of grand jury subpoenas and a federal investigation.
McCrory won’t get any cover from Republican legislators. They’ll be happy to throw him in the ash pit to save themselves.
That’s why the spill won’t be a deciding issue this year. Every candidate for the legislature will blast Duke and DENR. They’ll promise to get this mess cleaned up and it won’t cost ratepayers a cent. That will put off the day of reckoning to 2016.
When McCrory will find out how truly lonely it is at the top.