MAC: Mines and Communities

The 'dirty duke' agrees to major US coal clean-up

Published by MAC on 2020-01-11
Source: Southern Environmental Law Center

A long-running campaign and legal action by a coalition of environmental groups has resulted in Duke Energy now agreeing to clean up all its coal ash dams in North Carolina.

For previous article on MAC see: Duke energy reaches $7 miillion pollution compensation deal


N.C. settlement results in largest coal ash cleanup in America

Southern Environmental Law Centetr

2 January 2020

This settlement means North Carolina’s communities will be safer and its
water, including the beloved Catawba River Basin, will be cleaner than
they have been in decades.

In a historic settlement SELC reached with Duke Energy and the North
Carolina Department of Environmental Quality today, approximately 80
million tons of toxic coal ash are now slated for excavation at six
Duke Energy coal ash sites.

“This agreement is the culmination of nine years of work by communities
across North Carolina and puts in place the most extensive coal ash
cleanup in the nation,” says Frank Holleman, senior attorney at SELC,
which represents the community groups in court seeking coal ash cleanups
in North Carolina. “With the agreements and court orders governing eight
other coal ash sites, we now have in place a historic cleanup of coal
ash lagoons to protect North Carolina’s clean water and families from
coal ash pollution.”

Prior settlements and court orders required cleanups and excavation of
46 million tons of the toxic coal ash at eight other Duke Energy sites
in North Carolina, and now the utility’s sites at its Allen, Belews
Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo, and Roxboro facilities will be added
to that list. A timeline highlighting key moments in North Carolina's
coal ash history is available here.

It was April 2019 when the state’s DEQ ordered Duke Energy to clean up
the final six coal ash storage sites, prompting the utility to appeal
the order and SELC to intervene.

Today’s historic settlement culminates efforts that began in 2012 when
SELC first went to court to seek cleanup of coal ash pollution on behalf
of community groups in South Carolina, and thereafter brought
administrative and legal actions that sought cleanups in North Carolina.

Now, every utility in South Carolina is excavating its coal ash from
every unlined, leaking lagoon in the state and cleanups will be underway
at every coal ash site in North Carolina. Coal ash has been, is being,
and will be removed from coal ash pits owned by three utilities on
rivers that flow through both states.

SELC reached the settlement on behalf of Appalachian Voices, the Stokes
County Branch of the NAACP, MountainTrue, Catawba Riverkeeper
Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Roanoke River Basin
Association, Cape Fear River Watch, Neuse River Foundation/Sound Rivers,
and the N.C. State Conference of the NAACP.

“Coal ash pollution is an environmental justice issue, and this
agreement will bring more justice to the communities around coal ash
sites in North Carolina,” says Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman of the
N.C. State Conference of the NAACP.

Adds Senior Attorney Holleman, who doesn’t mince words: “North
Carolina’s communities will be safer and North Carolina’s water will be
cleaner than they have been in decades.”
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Settlement

Where will the excavated coal ash go?

The site specific closure plan sections in the settlement agreement
state that the coal ash removed from open, leaking, unlined pits sitting
in groundwater and next to waterways will be moved to dry, lined
landfills on-site or recycled.

How will paying for the cleanup be determined?

As always, the rates that Duke Energy can charge ratepayers are
determined in separate proceedings before the N.C. Utilities Commission
and can be appealed. Challenges to Duke Energy's previous attempt to
recover costs related to its coal ash cleanup by the N.C. Attorney
General and Sierra Club, a signatory to this agreement, are still
pending before the N.C. Supreme Court.

The settlement agreement explicitly states that nothing in it “shall be
taken as an endorsement or opposition by DEQ or the Community Groups of
recovery through rates of the costs incurred by Duke Energy implementing
the terms of this Agreement or related Consent Order.”


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