Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.”
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
Healthy Forests = Good Fishing
by Fred Mix
I’ve been an avid fisherman since before I could speak. In fact, I’ve even got a photo of me holding up a fish I caught from when I was still in diapers. And in all my time fishing, I’ve never been as concerned about the health of our rivers and streams as I am now.
That’s why I support MountainTrue — they help keep our rivers and streams fishable and clean.
One of my favorite fishing spots lies just below the Forest Service’s proposed Buck Project timber sale. The exact spot is this fisherman’s secret, but it’s a beautiful stream designated as an Outstanding Resource Water by the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Buck Creek is one of the largest and most biologically diverse of its type in WNC. It’s also the largest tributary of the Nantahala River above the headwaters, where there is no commercial development.
Not long ago, the Forest Service invited me and other stakeholders to tour the Buck Project site and assure us that we had nothing to worry about. They’re planning to cut new roads, bury culverts to redirect water and then to take them out when they finish up. While they told me this, all I could think about was all the water and mud that would wash right down the valley into Buck Creek. If they push this project through, our pristine waterway is gone. The Forest Service staff are good people, reasonable and smart, but are dead set on cutting those trees no matter the cost.
When I was younger, we caught a fish and we killed it. We were takers back then. Now I catch and release because I’m more interested in preserving what we have. Unfortunately, the Forest Service is stuck in the taking mode.
You can help protect our Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests by supporting MountainTrue’s PublicLands Team. Join as a MountainTrue member today and protect places like Buck Creek – because it’s the right thing to do, now and for future generations.
Fred Mix is a life-long Fisherman & MountainTrue supporter. He was born in New Orleans, raised in Atlanta, and has lived most of his life somewhere between Bluffton, SC and the Nantahala Gorge. Fred spent 11 years in the fire service, and has maintained a boat brokerage business for the last 30 years. He is an avid fisherman who volunteers his time and expertise surveying fish populations in Nantahala.
Protect the Places We Share
Have fun with us, learn more about the incredible natural treasures of our region, and make a difference in your community.
How Clean Is Your River? Check Swim Guide
Before you head out onto the water, don’t forget to check theswimguide.org. MountainTrue’s four Riverkeepers post up-to-date water monitoring results for the Broad, French Broad, Green and Watauga rivers just in time for the weekends. The Swim Guide is the public’s best resource for knowing which streams and river recreation areas are safe to swim in, and which have failed to meet safe water quality standards for bacteria pollution.
“Right before jumping into the river, the number one question people ask us is ‘Is it clean?’” says French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson. “Swim Guide is the answer to that question.” Each week throughout the spring, summer and fall, the volunteers for each of MounainTrue’s four Riverkeeper programs collect samples from their rivers’ most popular streams and recreation areas every Wednesday. By Friday afternoon, those samples are analyzed for levels of E. coli and the data is posted to theswimguide.org.
“We get the results to the public as quickly as possible because we want Swim Guide to be up-to-date in time for the weekend,” says Green Riverkeeper Gray Jernigan.
“E. coli bacteria makes its way into our rivers and streams from sewer leaks, failing septic tanks and stormwater runoff. One of the biggest culprits is runoff from animal agricultural operations with substandard riparian buffers,” explains Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell. In general, waterways that are located in more remote areas or protected public lands that lack agricultural, developmental or industrial pollution sources are the cleanest and least affected by stormwater runoff. Areas closer to development and polluting agricultural practices are much more heavily impacted.
Heavy rains and storms often result in spikes in E. coli contamination, increasing the risk to human health. “As it rains and the river becomes muddier, levels of bacteria pollution generally get worse,” Watauga Riverkeeper Andy explains. “But when the water is clear, it’s a great opportunity to get out for a swim in the river without worry.”
MountainTrue, Other Community Groups Intervene In Duke’s Appeal of Coal Ash Order
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.
A timeline is available here.
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
Stand Up For Clean Water at Mine Permit Hearing May 2!
The North Toe River in Spruce Pine is loved by paddlers, anglers and swimmers alike. It provides tourism opportunities for the local community, and is home to trout and endangered species that need clear mountain rivers to thrive.
However, mining facilities on the North Toe have violated water quality standards repeatedly in recent years, and last summer, the North Toe closed to the public after a hydrofluoric acid spill from a mine caused a fish kill. And while the NC Department of Environmental Quality considers the river impaired, the agency has proposed new permits for the next several years that would allow the pollution from the mine processing facilities to continue.
Right now the permits for all six mining facilities on the North Toe are up for renewal. Thankfully, MountainTrue members like you contacted the NC Division of Water Resources in February to make sure the Spruce Pine community gets a public hearing before the permits are approved, and that hearing is now scheduled for Thursday, May 2.
Public Hearing on Wastewater Discharge Permit Renewals for Avery and Mitchell Counties
Thursday May 2 at 6 P.M.
Mitchell Senior Citizens Center
152 Ledger School Road
Bakersville, NC 28705
Speaker registration begins at 5:30 P.M.
We hope you’ll come to the hearing to stand up for clean water, and spread the word to make sure there’s a big public turnout!
Why Are The Mine Permits A Problem?
- As it stands, these Clean Water Act permits would allow these mining facilities to continue dumping polluted water into the North Toe River for the next several years. Now is our chance to urge the Department of Environmental Quality to do the right thing. DEQ can still change the permits to require the mines to clean up their act, instead of locking in the same pollution for years to come.
- DEQ considers the North Toe River impaired, but allows the current pollution to continue unabated in the proposed renewed pollution permits.
- DEQ should require the facilities with aging or failing infrastructure to upgrade their operations, reduce pollution, and protect water quality.
- These six mining facilities generate an enormous amount of waste and together have a real negative impact on the North Toe. With all six permits up for renewal, now is the perfect opportunity for DEQ to take a closer look at these mining facilities and to develop permits will clean up the river.
- The outdoor recreation economy in Western North Carolina depends on clean water and requires industry to be good stewards of our rivers.
- If you live near the North Toe, DEQ needs to hear from you about what conditions you observe when mine runoff clogs the river and where the biggest problems are.
Proposed Mine Facility Permits:
Crystal Operation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/crystal-operation-permit-nc0084620-0
The Feldspar Corporation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/feldspar-corporation-permit-nc0000353
Red Hill Quartz Processing Plant: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/red-hill-quartz-processing-plant-permit-nc0085839-0
Schoolhouse Quartz Facility: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/schoolhouse-quartz-facility-permit-nc0000361-0
Quartz Operation: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/quartz-operation-permit-nc0000175-0
Quartz Corp/Pine Mountain: https://deq.nc.gov/news/events/quartz-corppine-mountain-permit-nc0000400-1