TN Coal Ash Cleanup Larger than Seven Unlined, Leaking Pits Duke Energy Refuses to Clean Up

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—A Tennessee utility today agreed to excavate 12 million tons of coal ash from its unlined disposal pit near Nashville – a site larger than seven of the nine unlined coal ash pits that Duke Energy has been directed to excavate recently in North Carolina.  Duke Energy is fighting an April order by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality that directed it to remove all of its coal ash from nine unlined pits at six sites across the state where the ash sits several stories deep in groundwater next to rivers, lakes and drinking water reservoirs.  Late last year, Georgia Power announced that it will excavate 21 million tons from unlined storage at its Bowen facility–a removal project larger than any of the pits ordered to be excavated at the Duke Energy North Carolina sites.

“This latest decision proves again that utilities like Duke Energy can remove coal ash from large unlined leaking pits and move it to safe, lined storage out of our groundwater and away from our rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “It is time for Duke Energy to stop litigating and get about removing its toxic coal ash from all its unlined, leaking pits in North Carolina.”

With the Tennessee announcement, utilities throughout the southeast are now required and committed to excavate almost a quarter billion tons of coal ash from unlined waterfront pits in the region.  Every unlined utility waterfront pit in South Carolina is being excavated, and Virginia enacted legislation requiring Dominion to excavate all of its coal ash pits in that state.  In Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority today settled litigation with the state of Tennessee and conservation groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center and agreed to remove 12 million tons of coal ash from an unlined pit on the Cumberland River near Nashville.

Under criminal plea agreements, a settlement agreement with clients of the Southern Environmental Law Center, and court orders, Duke Energy is required to excavate all of its coal ash from unlined, leaking pits at eight of its 14 sites in North Carolina.  

In April, North Carolina DEQ determined that Duke Energy must finish the job in North Carolina by removing all of its coal ash from its nine remaining unlined pits on Lakes Norman and Wylie, on the Broad River, and in Stokes and Person Counties.  This order followed review of scientific evidence and public meetings and comments in which thousands of North Carolinians called upon Duke Energy to remove its coal ash from unlined waterfront pits in the state.  However, Duke Energy has refused to accept the decision of the environmental agency and the public and is litigating to avoid having to comply with the state directive to clean up.  The state and local community groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center are opposing Duke Energy in the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings and supporting the scientific determinations made in April.

The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the following groups in the OAH proceedings: Appalachian Voices, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, MountainTrue, Roanoke River Basin Association, Sierra Club, the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

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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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