Tell the NC Utilities Commission: Enough is Enough. No More Duke Rate Hikes For Dirty Energy.

Tell the NC Utilities Commission: Enough is Enough. No More Duke Rate Hikes For Dirty Energy.

 

More About This Rate Hike Proposal

Cost

  • Duke Energy wants to collect $290.8 million more from customers each year an overall 6% increase.
  • If approved, residential electric rates will rise by about $8.06 per month for a typical customer. That means the average monthly bill would increase to about $116.26.

Burning More Gas

  • The rate hike would pay for Duke to convert more coal plants to be able to burn on gas in addition to coal.
  • Duke should be investing in solar and wind energy on a massive scale as a response to the climate crisis. Instead, Duke is trying to recover costs for about $278 million spent for retrofitting coal units at its Belews Creek and Cliffside plants to allow them to burn gas as well as coal.
  • Our climate can’t afford more gas plants. Natural gas burns methane, and methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon when it leaks from pipeline infrastructure. And this infrastructure is leaking at every step of the way – from wells, to leaks at pipelines and compressor stations.
    • Methane is 87 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide during the time it remains in the atmosphere.
    • A recent study published in the journal Science found that the U.S. oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane from its operations each year—nearly 60 percent more than currently estimated by the EPA.
  • While the rate hike includes a plan to phase out coal-burning at Duke’s Cliffside Unit 5 by 2026, the plan for the retrofit sets up this unit transitioning to starting to burn gas at that time. The climate science has made it clear that we cannot afford a timeline that will prepare more gas plants to begin burning well into the 2020’s. Instead, Duke should replace the Cliffside coal unit with renewable energy such as solar or wind. 


Cost Deferral Account for Grid Modification

  • Duke wants to set up a “cost deferral” account to pay for up to $2.5 billion that it expects to spend over the next three years on grid projects. While Duke is not seeking to fund that account in this rate case, they have said they’ll seek recovery of those costs in their next rate case a few years from now.
  • The General Assembly denied Duke the ability to charge customers for future costs in their highly controversial bill SB559 this year. Now, Duke is trying another path to be able to forward the bill for these costs – but setting aside funds for estimated future costs reduces the transparency and accuracy regarding how the public’s money is spent.

Costs Related To Coal Ash

  • Duke wants customers to cover their tab for the cost of cleaning up their coal ash mess over the last two years – $123.6 million over five years. These are costs associated with coal ash cleanup at the Allen, Belews Creek, Buck, Cliffside, Dan River, Marshall, Riverbend, and W.S. Lee sites incurred since January 1, 2018.
  • Duke also wants customers to pay $689 million to cover the company for upgrades to deal with bottom ash treatment, wastewater processing, and lining retention basins.
  • You might recall that Duke’s insurance company has refused to pay for costs associated with Duke’s coal ash cleanup because “Duke failed to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate” the damages resulting from coal ash disposal. As a result, they’re turning (once again) to the NC Utilities Commission for permission to pass the cost of their mess on to customers.
  • In 2015, three Duke Energy companies including Duke Energy Carolinas plead guilty to nine criminal environmental violations for their failure to protect NC waterways from coal ash pollution.
  • In 2018, it was revealed that Duke was aware of the harms of coal ash beginning in the 1980’s, but did not begin to take precautions.
  • Because Duke Energy is a state-sanctioned monopoly in North Carolina, ratepayers neither have power over Duke Energy policies, nor the option of using a different electricity provider. It is simply not just or plausible for customers to keep getting their rates increased every couple of years while they are legally prevented from choosing a different company for their electricity needs.


Duke Should Pay

  • In 2018, Duke had a net income of $3.03 billion but paid no federal taxes. In fact, the company is owed $647 million by the federal government.
  • Compensation for Duke’s CEO Lynn Good more than doubled in 2017.
  • In the years since Hartwell and SELC sent Duke Energy a 60-Day Notice of Intent to address Clean Water Act violations on the French Broad River on Jan. 24, 2013:
    • Duke Energy’s CEO Lynn Good and her four EVP’s have taken home a combined $151,453,920 in compensation.
    • Duke Energy’s Board has taken home compensation of $24,689,284. 
    • Duke Energy has issued a combined total of $16.707 billion in dividend payments to its shareholders.  


Sources

Duke Energy Carolina’s Rate Case Filing: https://starw1.ncuc.net/NCUC/ViewFile.aspx?Id=c69824e6-f9cd-4895-a5cf-53272ffbcd51

“Here’s how much Duke Energy is seeking to raise utility rates in North Carolina” https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2019/09/30/heres-how-much-duke-energy-is-seeking-to-raise.html

“Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C approved by governments” https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

“The False Promise of Natural Gas” https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1913663

“‘No chance’ on making Duke absorb coal ash costs, North Carolina GOP says” https://www.utilitydive.com/news/no-chance-north-carolina-gop-says-on-making-duke-absorb-coal-ash-costs/552326/

“Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good sees 55 percent jump in compensation” https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article204293519.html

“Attorneys: Duke knew about coal ash concerns in 1980s, didn’t act” https://www.wral.com/attorneys-duke-knew-about-coal-ash-concerns-in-1980s-didn-t-act/17147405/

“Methane Matters: Scientists Work to Quantify the Effects of a Potent Greenhouse Gas” https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/MethaneMatters

“Dividends – Duke Energy” Duke Energy, https://www.duke-energy.com/our-company/investors/stock/dividends-duke-energy

“These Charlotte companies paid no federal taxes in 2018, despite posting big profits” Charlotte Business Journal https://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/news/2019/12/19/these-charlotte-companies-paid-no-federal-taxes-in.html


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America

Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America

Energy and Sustainability

On January 2, MountainTrue, other community partners and our legal counsel the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) announced a historic settlement with Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

The agreement mandates that 80 million tons of coal ash will be excavated from six Duke Energy coal ash sites: Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo, and Roxboro. Prior settlements and court orders require cleanups and excavation of coal ash at the eight other Duke Energy sites in North Carolina for the excavation of 46 million tons of coal ash. This agreement now puts in place a comprehensive cleanup plan for all coal ash lagoons at all 14 Duke Energy sites in North Carolina under which 126 million tons of ash has been or will be excavated across the state and will result in the largest coal ash cleanup in America to date.

Statement from Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue:

With this settlement, Duke Energy has committed to fully excavating coal ash at the Rogers/Cliffside Energy Complex and moving it to a lined landfill where it will no longer pollute groundwater and the Broad River. This is the solution we’ve advocated for the last seven years, and it is a huge victory for our environment and for the front line communities most impacted by decades of coal ash pollution.

Statement from David Caldwell, Broad Riverkeeper:

Thanks should be given to the hundreds of local concerned citizens in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties, who showed up, stood up and spoke out at several public meetings. Together we were able to convince NCDEQ, our Department of Environmental Quality, and Duke Energy that moving all of the coal ash, a byproduct of 70 years of burning coal, to dry storage is the safest alternative to closing coal ash basins.

Read the full press release from SELC below.

For Release: January 2, 2020

Contact: SELC, Kathleen Sullivan, 919-945-7106 or ksullivan@selcnc.org

North Carolina Settlement Results in Largest Coal Ash Cleanup in America
Community Groups, N.C. DEQ and Duke Energy Reach Settlement to Clean Up Coal Ash at Six North Carolina Sites

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The Southern Environmental Law Center today announced it reached a settlement with Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to clean up coal ash at six North Carolina sites on behalf of Appalachian Voices, Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, MountainTrue, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Roanoke River Basin Association, Cape Fear River Watch, Neuse River Foundation/Sound Rivers, and N.C. State Conference of the NAACP. With this agreement, North Carolina will benefit from the largest coal ash cleanup in America to date.

Approximately 80 million tons of coal ash will be excavated from six Duke Energy coal ash sites: Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo, and Roxboro. At each of these sites, coal ash is stored in unlined, leaking pits near waterbodies. Prior settlements and court orders require cleanups and excavation of coal ash at the eight other Duke Energy sites in North Carolina for the excavation of 46 million tons of coal ash: Asheville, Riverbend, Dan River, Sutton, Weatherspoon, Cape Fear, Lee, and Buck. This agreement now puts in place a comprehensive cleanup plan for all coal ash lagoons at all 14 Duke Energy sites in North Carolina under which 126 million tons of ash has been or will be excavated across the state.

In April 2019, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) ordered Duke Energy to clean up the remaining six coal ash storage sites in the state that were not yet slated to be cleaned up. Duke Energy appealed those orders, and the Southern Environmental Law Center intervened on behalf of community groups to support cleanup, alongside DEQ.
This agreement resolves Duke Energy’s pending appeals of DEQ’s April order, a state court enforcement proceeding brought by DEQ in which community groups represented by SELC are intervenors, and three federal court actions brought by SELC on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association, Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, N.C. State Conference of the NAACP, and Appalachian Voices.

Today’s settlement culminates efforts that began in 2012 when the Southern Environmental Law Center first went to court to seek cleanup of coal ash pollution on behalf of community groups in South Carolina and thereafter brought administrative and legal actions that sought coal ash cleanups in North Carolina. Now every utility in South Carolina is excavating its coal ash from every unlined lagoon in the state and cleanups are required and will be underway at every coal ash site in North Carolina. Coal ash has been, is being, and will be removed from coal ash pits owned by three utilities on rivers that flow through both states.

With the coal ash removal at Marshall and Allen in addition to prior commitments at other sites, approximately 44.5 million tons of coal ash has been and will be excavated from coal ash pits along the Catawba River in North and South Carolina. With the removals at Belews Creek, Mayo, and Roxboro, almost 40 million tons of ash in the Roanoke and Dan River Basins have been and are being moved to lined storage. Almost 17 million tons of coal ash will be removed at Roxboro and over 17 million tons of coal ash will be removed at Marshall while ash already in permitted landfills or structural fills will be subject to additional protective measures including stabilization actions and groundwater and surface water monitoring and remediation.
Over 8 million tons will be excavated at Cliffside on the Broad River.

“This agreement is the culmination of nine years of work by communities across North Carolina and puts in place the most extensive coal ash cleanup in the nation,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the community groups in court seeking coal ash cleanups in North Carolina. “With the agreements and court orders governing eight other coal ash sites, we now have in place a historic cleanup of coal ash lagoons to protect North Carolina’s clean water and families from coal ash pollution. North Carolina’s communities will be safer and North Carolina’s water will be cleaner than they have been in decades.”

Comments from the community groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center in various courts to seek cleanup of coal ash pollution at the six North Carolina sites follow.

Amy Adams of Appalachian Voices: “This agreement is a testament to the communities throughout North Carolina that have worked for years to protect their neighborhoods and clean water from coal ash pollution.”

Rev. Gregory Hairston of the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP: “We are thankful for the settlement and count it a major victory for our air, water and environmental justice in the state of North Carolina.”

Brandon Jones, Catawba Riverkeeper at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation: “This settlement is a fantastic victory for the Catawba and all North Carolinians and a major step towards protecting water quality for current and future generations. This is one of, if not the largest coal ash cleanup in American history. We are proud to have been a part of this effort from the beginning.”

Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue: “With this settlement, Duke Energy has committed to fully excavating coal ash at the Rogers/Cliffside Energy Complex and moving it to a lined landfill where it will no longer pollute groundwater and the Broad River. This is the solution we’ve advocated for the last seven years, and it is a huge victory for our environment and for the front line communities most impacted by decades of coal ash pollution.”

Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance; “Duke Energy is doing the right thing and protecting all North Carolina communities and waterways from its toxic legacy. North Carolina Waterkeepers and their partners worked tirelessly to stop the contamination of the
state’s waterways by toxic coal ash; this monumental agreement is a testament to their years of work.”

Dave Rogers, deputy regional director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign: “This agreement is a victory for communities and represents the culmination of years of work across North Carolina to guarantee protections from toxic coal ash pollution for hundreds of families and children.”

Statement by Gene Addesso, Mike Pucci and Greg Goddard, leaders of the Roanoke River Basin Association: “Under this agreement, the Roanoke River and Dan River Basins will see one of the largest coal ash cleanups in the country, with millions of tons of coal ash being moved to lined storage at the Dan River, Belews Creek, Roxboro, and Mayo sites on the river system that flows through communities in North Carolina and Virginia.”

Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman of the N.C. State Conference of the NAACP: “Coal ash pollution is an environmental justice issue, and this agreement will bring more justice to the communities around coal ash sites in North Carolina.”

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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 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. www.SouthernEnvironment.org


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

On Jan. 15, tell the NC Utilities Commission: No Rate Hikes for Dirty Energy!

On Jan. 15, tell the NC Utilities Commission: No Rate Hikes for Dirty Energy!

Energy and Sustainability

Duke Energy is trying to raise our electric bills to pay for dirty energy. Again. The company’s latest rate hike proposal would increase residential electricity costs by another 6.7% – or about $97 more per year for the average electricity user.

Duke’s proposal lacks any direct investment in renewable energy and would raise our rates to burn more gas, create a “deferral” account of up to $2.5 billion for Duke to access in a future rate hike, and call for customers to foot the bill to clean up coal ash – even though Duke knew this coal ash was toxic as far back as the 1980s, and did nothing to prevent it. The rate increase would also come only two years after their last rate hike, and would be their fifth rate hike in ten years.

Join MountainTrue members in Franklin on January 15 and in Morganton on January 16 to tell the NC Utilities Commission: Enough is enough. Don’t let Duke pass the bill for more dirty energy to customers.

Rate Hike Hearing in Franklin
Wednesday, January 15 at 7:00PM
Macon County Courthouse
5 W. Main Street
Franklin, NC 28734

Rate Hike Hearing in Morganton
Thursday, January 16 at 7:00PM
Burke County Courthouse
201 South Green Street
Morganton, NC 28655


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Tell Buncombe County’s Board of Commissioners: Thanks for Voting for the Solar RFP. Now, Make Solar Energy a Reality.

Tell Buncombe County’s Board of Commissioners: Thanks for Voting for the Solar RFP. Now, Make Solar Energy a Reality.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Meet the 2019 MountainTrue Award Winners

Meet the 2019 MountainTrue Award Winners

Energy and Sustainability

MountainTrue is proud to announce our annual award winners for 2019. These awards are given to MountainTrue members and volunteers who have been outstanding in their commitment to preserving WNC’s natural heritage. Awards will be formally presented at our Annual Gathering on October 23 at New Belgium Brewing Company in Asheville.

The awards are as follows:

Esther Cunningham Award Winner: Katie Breckheimer
This award is given in honor of Esther Cunningham, the founder of the Western North Carolina Alliance, and is MountainTrue’s most prestigious award.

Katie Breckheimer has been a leader in environmental advocacy in WNC for over three decades. She was active with the Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO) in Henderson County, and then was crucial to the success of the transformative 2015 merger between ECO, the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA) and the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance (JMCA) that created MountainTrue. Not long after the merger, Katie’s natural capacity for leadership and her commitment to our work led her to serve a term as MountainTrue’s Board Chair.

Katie has played a major role in advocacy efforts including green energy, promoting greenways and recycling, and stopping coal ash pollution and expansion of Asheville’s Duke Energy power plant. Katie launched and continues to host Green Drinks in Hendersonville, a monthly social gathering and lecture series on environmental issues. Her passion for and dedication to environmental protection is beyond compare, and has positioned her as a leading voice for natural resources across the region.

Volunteer of the Year for the High Country Region: Chris Souhrada

Shortly after moving to Banner Elk, Chris connected with MountainTrue and immediately became one of MountainTrue’s most dedicated and reliable volunteers in the High Country. Chris has been a long-running water quality volunteer with the Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) program. High Country Regional Director Andy Hill calls him “the MVP and anchor of the water quality team who covers for others when needed, goes above and beyond what is asked of him and is always willing to help with other projects like livestaking and non-native invasive removal.” In general, Andy says Chris is just a hell of a guy and we are pleased to award him our High Country Region Volunteer of the Year!

Volunteers of the Year for the Southern Region: Kay Shurtleff and Lucy Butler

Kay and Lucy have both been committed volunteers with MountainTrue’s Southern Regional Office water quality monitoring programs for over a decade. Together they coordinate over 30 water testing sites by collecting samples from all of the volunteers and transporting them to the lab every month. They also participate in and coordinate biomonitoring for water insects in local streams twice per year. In addition to their ongoing commitments to our water programs, they have helped with a variety of other initiatives including Christmas tree recycling, river cleanups, local festivals, and advocacy at public meetings. Southern Region Director Gray Jernigan says “they are two of our most dedicated and reliable members and set the example by being great stewards of our natural environment.” Congratulations Kay and Lucy!

Volunteer of the Year for the Western Region: Charlie Swor

As the former secretary of the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (HRWC) board of directors, Charlie worked hard on the complex and successful merger between HRWC and MountainTrue this past summer. Charlie also participates in our volunteer water quality monitoring program, taking monthly water chemistry and E. coli measurements from Corn Creek. He spearheaded a partnership between Young Harris College and HRWC for management of the Corn Creek riparian corridor, creating a much healthier stream environment and a more pleasant walk on the college’s streamside trail. Charlie float-fishes area rivers on a regular basis and lets us know when he discovers issues that might impact water quality. “Charlie is one of those ‘go-to’ guys when we need help with set-up for an event or really any ‘ole thing,” says Western Regional Director Callie Moore. “If he’s not busy and his wife, Rachel can take care of the kids (thanks Rachel!), he’s there!”

Volunteer of the Year for the Central Region: Erin Gregory

Erin has been a key volunteer for the French Broad Riverkeeper program for the last two years, spending hours each week collecting water samples that have led to the team finding no fewer than three major sewer issues. When French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Watershed Outreach Coordinator Anna Alsobrook were out of town earlier this summer, Erin texted them to report an issue and then also contacted the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality on their behalf to instigate a quicker response. She has single-handedly created a French Broad River Festival for our Beer Series at The Wedge, including gear builders, outfitters, and other local producers, and she prompted the Asheville Yoga Center to designate MountainTrue their Charity of the Month. We couldn’t do it without you Erin!


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

MountainTrue, Other Community Groups Intervene In Duke’s Appeal of Coal Ash Order

MountainTrue, Other Community Groups Intervene In Duke’s Appeal of Coal Ash Order

Energy and Sustainability

The Marshall Steam Station, one of the six coal ash sites the NC Department of Environmental Quality ordered for Duke Energy to clean up. 

May 6, 2019

MountainTrue and several other community groups in North Carolina are intervening in Duke Energy’s appeal of the order requiring the company to clean up its toxic coal ash pollution.

The Department of Environmental Quality’s order was a victory for clean water and frontline communities affected by coal ash in our state. MountainTrue is committed to ensuring that the science-based evidence that led to the Department of Environmental Quality’s order is respected, and that the order is implemented justly for the people of North Carolina.

The following is a press release by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which will represent MountainTrue in the proceedings before the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. See this press release on the Southern Environmental Law Center’s website here.

 

Groups Move to Defend N.C. Order that Duke Energy Must Clean Up Coal Ash Pollution at Six Sites

Duke’s Refusal Follows Years of Public Outcry, Pollution, Crimes & Spills

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Community groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center moved to intervene in appeals filed by Duke Energy in the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings in which Duke Energy tries to avoid cleaning up its coal ash pollution at six sites in North Carolina. At those sites, Duke Energy stores toxic coal ash in unlined, leaking pits sitting in groundwater next to rivers, lakes, and drinking water reservoirs. For years and again in 2019, thousands of North Carolina families have called upon the state government and Duke Energy to clean up all of Duke’s leaking, unlined coal ash pits across the state. The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the following groups in today’s filings: Appalachian Voices, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, MountainTrue, Roanoke River Basin Association, Sierra Club, the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

“All of North Carolina’s waters and all its families deserve protection from Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash pollution,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents the groups in court seeking cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution. “Years of study show the only way to protect North Carolina families is to remove Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash waste from polluting, unlined waterfront pits.  When the coal ash from all of Duke’s sites is finally out of our groundwater in dry, lined storage at each site, North Carolina’s rivers will be cleaner, North Carolina’s drinking water will be safer, and North Carolina’s communities will be more secure.”

State scientists determined that excavation was the only acceptable option because Duke Energy’s coal ash sits deep in the groundwater, and if left in unlined, leaking lagoons as Duke proposes, it would continue to pollute indefinitely. According to Duke Energy’s own analyses, it has the ability to remove the wet ash from unlined pits to dry, lined landfills on-site at each of the six sites in question. Duke Energy is required to clean up seven other coal ash sites in North Carolina by court order and an eighth coal ash site by a settlement agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Yadkin Riverkeeper.

“For years and with much effort, community members in the Broad River Watershed have respectfully shown up for DEQ’s public input meetings and public information sessions as well as Duke Energy’s community open house,” said David Caldwell, the Broad Riverkeeper at MountainTrue which is a client in the motion to intervene regarding Duke’s Cliffside site.  “We have followed and been part of the long process of discovering the truth about coal ash and its hazards.  DEQ made the decision to have all coal ash in our state excavated and stored safely.  We respect and support this decision.  It is time for Duke Energy to stop wasting time and money on delaying the inevitable.  Duke must now show some respect for its customers, families of North Carolina, and our Department of Environmental Quality; they must get on with the job of cleaning up their mess.”

Duke Energy’s operating companies in North Carolina are under criminal probation after they pleaded guilty 18 times to nine coal ash crimes committed at sites across the state. Duke Energy has a long record of coal ash pollution from the catastrophic Dan River coal ash spill and additional spills, including spills from its pits in Goldsboro and Wilmington in recent storms and continuing flows of pollution from its unlined pits across the state where coal ash sits in groundwater next to rivers and lakes. Duke Energy has repeatedly told the public its coal ash storage was safe, and repeatedly, Duke Energy has been proven wrong, with serious consequences for North Carolina communities and waterways.

“The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has been working to protect our waters from coal ash contamination since at least 2012 and will continue to do so,” said Brandon Jones, Catawba Riverkeeper at the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation which is a client in the motions to intervene regarding Duke’s Allen and Marshall sites.  “North Carolinians deserve clean water that is not contaminated by coal ash.  Duke Energy has cleaned up other coal ash pits in our watershed and it is time for them to finish the job. We support the NC DEQ’s decision.”

“At this point, groups and communities throughout the state and the NC DEQ are all in agreement that excavation is the only acceptable option,” says Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, which is a client on the motions to intervene regarding Duke’s Allen and Marshall sites. “Yet Duke Energy still refuses to do the right thing.”

With these agency orders, North Carolina joins its neighboring states in requiring cleanup of dangerous unlined coal ash storage.  Every utility in South Carolina is already required to excavate all the coal ash from every unlined lagoon in the state, and Virginia recently passed legislation that requires Dominion to excavate all the coal ash from its unlined pits in the state.  The pollution from the six sites that are the subjects of Duke Energy’s appeals flows through North Carolina and into South Carolina and Virginia.

Motions to intervene were filed for the following Duke Energy coal ash sites: AllenBelews CreekCliffsideMarshallMayo, and Roxboro.

A timeline is available here.

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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


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.