N.C. DEQ asks for new deadline to finalize coal ash storage classifications

Excavation plans for Duke Energy's massive coal ash storage sites across North Carolina, like the one above, were released today by state offiicals.  (© Sanjay Suchak)

Today the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released new classifications for Duke Energy’s coal ash storage across the state. In the rankings, all sites are listed as high or intermediate priority, meaning the ash would be excavated by 2019 or 2024. Yet DEQ has asked to be able to revise the plan in 18 months, providing little security to the many North Carolinians whose communities, drinking water, and homes are threatened by this toxic ash. D.J. Gerken, Managing Attorney of SELC's Asheville office, released the following statement on the latest plan.

“Faced with overwhelming public pressure and clear proof of contamination and other hazards, Governor Pat McCrory and DEQ finally acknowledged today what citizens have known for years: that all failing coal ash pits pose a significant risk to communities in North Carolina. Duke Energy’s leaking, unlined coal ash pits pollute and pose a significant threat to clean water and communities nearby and downstream across North Carolina.

“But this administration’s determination to bail out Duke Energy knows no end and, rather than stand up for impacted communities, DEQ now wants the law changed to give Duke Energy a do-over in 18 months. Requesting that the legislature revisit the law and requirements, allows Governor McCrory’s administration to say one thing to get through the election this fall, all subject to revision after the election.

“The General Assembly required the administration to calculate coal ash risks as they exist today. It’s past time for the Governor and DEQ to stop stalling for Duke Energy and to require real action now. It’s past time for Duke Energy to clean up its leaking, unlined coal ash sites that threaten North Carolina’s communities, rivers, and drinking water sources.”

SELC has been very active in the development of these classifications, from submitting formal commentary on the plan to attending numerous public hearings on the rankings. The primary message in all of these instances has been to reiterate that Duke Energy’s leaking, unlined coal ash pits threaten our drinking water sources and so are high risk, and high priority. SELC’s comments detailed how the proposals by Duke Energy and DEQ to leave coal ash in place—unlined and leaking into our groundwater—would continue the pollution of our groundwater, rivers, and lakes. The comments also showed how Duke Energy’s models and DEQ’s ratings are riddled with errors, mistakes and manipulations, designed to understate the extent of contamination.

SELC represents the following citizens groups in court to clean up Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution from all 14 leaking Duke Energy sites across North Carolina: Appalachian Voices, Cape Fear Riverwatch, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Dan River Basin Association, MountainTrue, Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, Roanoke River Basin Association, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Waterkeeper Alliance, Winyah Rivers Foundation, and Yadkin Riverkeeper.

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