South Carolina coal ash: a success story for the Southeast

Thanks to SELC's work in South Carolina, rivers such as the Saluda are safer every day. (© William Graf)

As utilities across the Southeast fight to leave their coal ash in unlined, leaking lagoons near rivers and drinking water sources, Santee Cooper and SCE&G in South Carolina are proving that cleaning up coal ash is a win-win for utilities and taxpayers.  In 2012 and 2013, SELC obtained settlements with the two utilities to remove coal ash and recycle it or transfer it to safer, lined storage away from major rivers and drinking water sources. Since then, each utility has not only met but surpassed its cleanup goals, leaving the waters of South Carolina slightly safer each day.

SCE&G, the first utility in South Carolina to agree to clean up its coal ash, stored approximately 2.4 million tons of coal ash on the banks of the Catawba-Wateree River. According to a recent report, the utility has removed over 600,000 tons of coal ash so far. This amount more than doubles the 240,000 tons the utility was required to remove by the end of 2014, and puts it ahead of schedule for its goal of removing all the ash by 2020.

Santee Cooper made a binding commitment to remove its coal ash from the Grainger facility on the Waccamaw River by the end of 2023.  The utility reported that it removed 164,000 tons of coal ash from the Grainger lagoons during 2014. At this rate of progress, all of the coal ash will be successfully removed from the facility in 2019, four years ahead of schedule.  Santee Cooper calls the cleanup a “triple win,” saying the program benefits the environment, the economy, and the company.

After two years of controversy in North Carolina and months of public pressure in South Carolina, at the end of 2014 Duke Energy followed the lead of these utilities and agreed to clean up its water-filled coal ash lagoons in South Carolina, located on the Saluda River near Greenville and Anderson.

In contrast, in North Carolina Duke Energy continues to store coal ash in unlined leaking lagoons at 14 sites on rivers throughout the state.  They are on rivers and watersheds that flow through both states, including the Broad, the Catawba, and the Winyah Bay watershed.  Duke Energy’s failure to clean up its North Carolina coal ash storage has resulted in ten lawsuits and federal criminal charges.


Read a Post & Courier story covering Santee Cooper's cleanup efforts.

Read SELC's press releases on the progress at Santee Cooper and SCE&G.

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