Observers of the coal ash debate in Lee County may have noticed something interesting in recent days as former Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack appears to have lined up alongside environmental activists fighting Duke Energy’s plans to dump 8 million tons of the waste material at a site in Lee County.

womack against coal ashIn the Herald’s comment section on a story from Monday night (subscription required) regarding the revelation that Lee County Commissioners voted to request a formal offer of $12 million from Duke – along with other conditions – apparently in exchange for dropping the potential for legal action against the utility, Womack criticized the board, which he left in December, for extracting “blood money” and and bemoaned that any financial payout will not be funneled to landowners “where the real impact will be felt.”

Don’t be fooled.

Despite this comment, and the fact the Herald bizarrely gave Womack a platform to advise environmentalists on a course of action in Thursday’s edition (subscription required), Womack has a lengthy history – in the same space – of not only supporting the coal ash dump, but also of criticizing both opponents of the plan and the Herald itself.

“The relocation of this largely inert and inconsequential fly ash for use as structural fill in clay repositories in Lee and Chatham counties will have no long-term derogatory impact on Lee County,” Womack wrote three months ago in another comment on the Herald’s site. “The project might actually work to our benefit if we work cooperatively and collaboratively with Duke Energy Progress to execute the plan. However, if we wage war on DEP, we are sure to lose many thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting a perfectly legitimate and and legal action plan and ‘poison the well’ with this corporate partner for many years to come.”

Around the same time, Womack wrote that Duke’s coal ash plan was “transparent, environmentally sound, and economical” and called opposition to the plan “silly.”

Womack also opined that Republican Commissioner Kirk Smith’s vote against a county resolution opposing the coal ash deal (subscription required) was consequential.

“Time will prove his points to be valid. It is not good for the county to be wasting money on lawsuits opposing the directions of the General Assembly and fighting the laws of the state,” he wrote.

And let’s not forget this.

The focus by this blog on Womack may seem strange given his recent exit from public office, but readers should know he’s elected to stay in the arena of local politics, having been recently named first vice chair of the Lee County Republican Party. And if the Herald wishes to continue adding his voice to this debate, it should at least examine past statements by him which are available on its own website. Doing so might lead one to wonder if Womack is simply “concern trolling” as a method of damaging the credibility of those he disagrees with.

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