NC Agency Seeks to Delay Enforcement against Duke Energy Over Coal Ash Pollution
The Southern Environmental Law Center commented on the late-evening request of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources asking the North Carolina State Court to delay judicial review of its consent order with Duke Energy over coal ash contamination of rivers, lakes and groundwater across the state.
“There is no reason for DENR to conduct yet another review of illegal, dangerous, and primitive storage of coal ash by Duke Energy in North Carolina,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for Southern Environmental Law Center. “DENR has been studying Duke Energy’s coal ash for years and has never taken action to enforce the law until conservation groups forced it to act. Now, instead of taking action to clean up coal ash pollution and protect the public, DENR is going back to the drawing board and proposing to delay action for who knows how long. It is time to act, not to delay.”
Late on Monday, DENR asked the Court to stop its consideration of the proposed deal between Duke Energy and DENR to settle the enforcement action against Duke Energy’s illegal pollution of Mountain Island Lake near Charlotte, the French Broad River in Asheville, and groundwater in both communities. DENR states that because of the disaster on the Dan River where Duke Energy’s coal ash lagoons have spilled large quantities of coal ash pollution into the River, DENR will now undertake a “comprehensive review” of all of Duke Energy’s coal ash facilities in North Carolina. For that reason, DENR has pulled back its request that the Court approve the settlement it reached with Duke for an indefinite period.
“We certainly agree it is time to pull this hasty settlement deal, but DENR should now get on with the business of enforcing the law,” said DJ Gerken, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents conservation groups in Asheville. “It is dangerous to store coal ash in unlined pits next to drinking water supplies and rivers, where it illegally pollutes and can spill catastrophically into our waterways. If South Carolina utilities can clean up their coal ash mess, there is no reason why Duke Energy can’t do the same thing in North Carolina.”
In South Carolina, utilities are already working to remove coal ash from dangerous river-side coal ash lagoons. SCE&G and Santee Cooper have reached settlements with conservation groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center to empty out dangerous lagoons. SCE&G has already removed 600,000 tons of coal ash.
The Southern Environmental Law Center and its clients have been urging DENR and Duke Energy for months to move the dangerously-stored coal ash to safe storage in dry, lined landfills away from waterways. This is the method of storage required for household and municipal waste.