Press Release | September 12, 2018

Disappointing Court Decision Lets Polluters Off the Hook

Coal Ash Ponds Polluting Elizabeth River

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA— In response to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision today, the Southern Environmental Law Center issues the following statement:

The impending flooding and storm surges expected from Hurricane Florence show just how dangerous and irresponsible it is to leave coal ash in unlined pits where it is vulnerable to hurricanes and extreme weather.

Today’s decision, while disappointing, does not affect the lower court’s factual determination that arsenic is leaking from coal ash pits at Dominion’s Chesapeake facility and flowing directly into the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River; nor does the decision alter the lower court’s determination that simply capping the ash in place is not an acceptable solution to this problem.Of the 3.4 million tons of coal ash at the site, 2.1 million tons of coal ash is sitting in unlined lagoons, with the ash in some areas extending six feet below sea level. Any closure proposal for this facility should ensure that arsenic is no longer dumped in the river, and take into account the vulnerability of the site to storm surges, hurricanes, and daily tidal erosion in order to protect the citizens of Chesapeake. 

We are reviewing the decision and will consult with our clients the Sierra Club regarding next steps. 


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 more than 80 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.

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Press Contacts

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450

Nate Benforado

Senior Attorney