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5 Things to Know: Colonial Pipeline Gas Spill Found to Be Worst in US History

...and four more stories from July 24-30, 2022

Colonial Pipeline spill
Protesters call for action nearing the one-year anniversary of the Colonial Pipeline gas spill at Veterans Park in Huntersville on July 25, 2021. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Colonial Pipeline Gas Spill Found to Be Worse Than Reported

A new analysis of the August 2020 Colonial Pipeline gas spill estimates that the volume of gasoline leaked was far greater than original estimates, making it the largest onshore spill in U.S. history. New data released last week by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) suggests that the spill started 18 days earlier than it was discovered and released more than 2 million gallons of gasoline, a large increase from the 1.2 million gallons reported by Colonial in January 2021. 

The Colonial Pipeline spill was first discovered by two teenagers riding four-wheelers through the Oehler Nature Preserve on Aug. 14, 2020. Shortly after the spill was discovered, a Colonial Pipeline spokesperson reported that 63,000 gallons of gas had spilled, but that most of it had been recovered. Five months later, in January 2021, the company acknowledged that 1.2 million gallons had actually leaked from a five-foot pipe that had ruptured.

The most recent info came as the result of a consent order approved by a Mecklenburg County Superior Court on July 7, which ordered Colonial to provide an updated estimate of the volume of the spill within 30 days. The order also requires the company to take specific remedial actions and pay nearly $5 million in penalties and investigative costs.

As of July 13, Colonial reported that they have recovered nearly 1.4 million gallons of gas from the spill site — leaving 600,000 gallons unaccounted for — as well as about 9.9 million gallons of petroleum-contact water.

“When it comes to using fossil fuels, we know by now that when we extract and transport oil and gas, we spill oil and gas,” said Katie Craig, state director at North Carolina Public Interest Research Group, in a release on Monday. “Gas infrastructure creates accidents waiting to happen that pollute our water, harm our environment, cost consumers and taxpayers money to clean up, and threaten public health. But these spills are preventable. We need to move away from our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and move toward a cleaner, healthier future powered by green, renewable energy.”

Body-Cam Footage of Veteran’s Gastonia Arrest Released

A judge ordered the city of Gastonia to release full body-cam footage related to the arrest of a disabled veteran for panhandling at a main intersection in the Gaston County city in October 2021, during which an officer deployed a taser on the man’s service dog, Sunshine. The dog ran off and would be struck and killed by a car three days later. 

City officials released two videos on Thursday, the first one shows interactions that Joshua Rohrer had with police on Oct. 9 and then on Oct. 13, the day he was arrested. In the Oct. 9 video, an officer discusses Gastonia’s panhandling laws with Rohrer and the interaction has a peaceful conclusion.

The Oct. 13 footage, which begins at the 8:30 mark in the first video, shows Rohrer’s arrest at the hands of multiple officers. A woman officer can be heard telling her colleague, “I don’t think he’s going to bite,” in reference to the dog shortly before that colleague deploys his taser on the animal. 

Rohrer has called for charges against the officers who arrested him and has continued to do so after the footage was released on Thursday. 

County Announces Move to High Community Spread

Mecklenburg County Public Health on Friday announced that the county has moved to the highest level of CDC COVID-19 community spread possible. The change from medium to high reflects a continued increase in positive cases, which has resulted in an increased burden on county resources, according to a release from MCPH on Friday.

The Omicron BA.5 variant, which appears to be more contagious and more resistant to immunity from vaccines or previous COVID-19 illness, currently represents the majority of new cases in the United States and in Mecklenburg County.

“At this highest community Level, we all must take steps to slow the spread and use the effective tools we have available: Get up to date with your vaccines, stay home if you’re not feeling well and test, and meet outdoors when possible,” stated Dr. Raynard Washington, Mecklenburg County Public Health director, in the release. “We all need to do our part.”

Department officials also recommended that residents mask up indoors and for immunocompromised or high-risk people to talk to their health-care provider about whether they are a candidate for treatments like oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.

Activists Speak Out Before Duke Energy Hearing

Around 75 people representing organizations from around North Carolina gathered at Marshall Park Thursday to speak out against Duke Energy’s proposed Carolinas Carbon Plan in the lead up to that day’s NC Utilities Commission’s hearing of public testimony about the plan.

According to the folks who organized the event, which included organizers with Sunrise Movement Charlotte, Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP and others, Duke’s proposed plan to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 vs. 2005 levels relies too heavily on coal, gas, and unsustainable energy sources; slow-walks the deployment of renewable energy resources; and is inadequate in terms of equity. 

“Duke Energy’s draft carbon plan is a scam designed to keep expanding the use of the very methane gas that is devastating communities and driving the climate crisis,” said Jim Warren, executive director of the climate justice nonprofit NC WARN. “Scientists say reducing the expansion of gas infrastructure is crucial to humanity’s efforts to avert climate and social catastrophe, yet Duke execs’ plan could result in dozens of new, natural gas-fired power plants.”

An activist speaks at a microphone with her supporters in the background at Marshall Park
A climate justice activist speaks out before Thursday’s hearing. (Photo by Tracy Watts/Sunrise Movement Charlotte)

“Duke Energy’s carbon plan ignores the experiences and realities of BIPOC communities and demonstrates a disregard for a ‘just and equitable’ energy transition,” added Rev. Corine Mack, president of the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP. “As we approach one of the greatest turning points in human history due to climate change, the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP is urging the Utilities Commissioners to ‘see us’ and meaningfully address and mitigate these impacts.”

Former Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said, “Today I asked the Utilities Commission to think of what climate change means to real people, to their own families and neighbors, here and now. I hope they will recognize that they have the power to reject this Carbon Plan and build a more ambitious one that brings hope — something that our young people are in great need of in these challenging times.”

Five Murders in Charlotte This Week

Five people were murdered in Charlotte this week, making 70 homicides in Charlotte thus far this year. Just after 7 p.m. on Sunday, police responded to Thomasboro Drive in the Thomasboro-Hoskins area of northwest Charlotte and found 19-year-old Jesse Mobley Jr. suffering from a gunshot wound. Medic pronounced him dead on the scene. 


Just before 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, police responded to a shooting call on Queen City Drive near Sloan Drive in west Charlotte and found 35-year-old Christopher McGill suffering from a gunshot wound. Medic transported McGill to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Shortly after McGill’s death, police arrested and charged a 27-year-old man with murder. 

Shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, police responded to Pennsylvania Avenue in the Oakview Terrace neighborhood of northwest Charlotte, where they found a person suffering from a gunshot wound. Medic transported the victim to the hospital, where they were pronounced dead. The victim had not yet been identified at the time of this writing. 

Shortly after 9 p.m. on Wednesday, police responded to Atrium – University in response to a call about a subject who had arrived with a gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the entrance of the emergency room. He was later identified as 24-year-old Dymonte Hall. Further investigation found that the shooting occurred on John Adams Road in University City. 

Just before 8 p.m. on July 28, police responded to a shooting call in the Sharon Chase condominium complex in east Charlotte, where they found 43-year-old Omar Williams suffering from a gunshot wound. Medic transported the man to Atrium – Main, where he was pronounced dead. 

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