Statement by Frank Holleman, SELC, Regarding Duke Energy Fighting North Carolina Coal Ash Cleanup in Office of Administrative Hearings

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.--Below is a statement from Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, regarding Duke Energy’s filing today in the state Office of Administrative Hearings opposing a N.C. Department of Environmental Quality order that Duke Energy remove its toxin-laden coal ash from unlined, leaking pits sitting in groundwater at six of its 14 coal ash sites in North Carolina.
 
“Today, Duke Energy made clear that it does not believe all North Carolina communities deserve protection from its leaking, unlined coal ash lagoons on the banks of our rivers and lakes. Duke Energy is taking an extreme position that has no basis in science or the law, and is ignoring the voices of the thousands of North Carolinians who have called for these leaking coal ash lagoons to finally be cleaned up.
 
“The scientists at DEQ determined that removing Duke’s coal ash from these lagoons was the best way to protect our water and our communities. In public meetings and written comments, many thousands of North Carolinians, who have been living with Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution for decades, called for the same common-sense solution of full excavation to get Duke’s coal ash out of their water.  
 
“Duke Energy, which is on nationwide probation for its criminal violations of the Clean Water Act, has already been forced to admit it is violating federal groundwater protection standards around its coal ash lagoons throughout North Carolina.  Duke Energy’s own experts determined that if left covered up in the unlined lagoons as Duke wants to do, millions of tons of Duke’s coal ash would remain submerged many stories deep in groundwater, leaking pollutants indefinitely. That would mean decades or even centuries more of continued risk from Duke’s coal ash pollution and the risk of another catastrophic failure, in violation of EPA’s rules. 
 
“However, Duke’s own studies found it could remove the ash to safe, dry, lined storage on its own properties, without burdening other communities.  The coal ash cleanups already underway in North Carolina and the Southeast are ahead of schedule.
 
“Duke Energy wants to deny to some North Carolina communities the same protections that other communities throughout our state like Asheville, Charlotte, and Wilmington are getting already.  Every utility in South Carolina is cleaning up all of its coal ash lagoons and Dominion Energy in Virginia is doing the same.”
 
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For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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