Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America

Historic Settlement Results In Largest Coal Ash Cleanup In America

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 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.

MountainTrue’s Statement on DEQ’s Announcement to Order Full Excavation of Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pits in North Carolina

MountainTrue’s Statement on DEQ’s Announcement to Order Full Excavation of Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pits in North Carolina

MountainTrue’s Statement on DEQ’s Announcement to Order Full Excavation of Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pits in North Carolina

Media Contact:

David Caldwell

Broad Riverkeeper, MountainTrue
E: david@mountaintrue.org  P: 704-300-5069

April 3 2019

Cliffside, N.C. On April 1, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that they will require full excavation of all coal ash impoundments in NC. As a result, a total of nine coal ash pits at six coal-burning plants – Allen, Belews, Cliffside/Rogers, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro – must be fully excavated and moved to lined landfills. Below are statements from MountainTrue’s Broad Riverkeeper, David Caldwell, and MountainTrue’s Co-Director, Julie Mayfield.

“This is a huge victory for clean water and the health of communities living near coal-burning power plants in North Carolina. DEQ has proven their mettle, showing the people of our state that they intend to do their job of protecting our water and environment. They have shown  big business and industry that polluting our water is unacceptable, and that polluters will be held accountable. This has been a long battle for frontline communities, which have shouldered the burden and the risks associated with coal-fired power for decades.

I personally became involved in the fight to clean up coal ash in 2014, and started the Broad River Alliance in 2015. In 2016 I attended the first of DEQ’s public input meetings regarding Cliffside, joining over one hundred concerned local citizens who stood up and spoke out for clean water. We asked DEQ and Duke Energy to do the right thing and dig up the ash that has been sitting in our groundwater and leaking dangerous contaminants into the Broad River.

The Cliffside community has been showing up and speaking out about the dangers of coal ash for the past three years. Finally, a victory has come for the people and for the environment that sustains us all. It is truly possible that I will one day be able to say to the young fishermen of the Broad River, ‘Yes, the fishing here is fantastic!  And these fish are good to eat! We have clean water and we intend on keeping it!’”

David Caldwell, Broad Riverkeeper for MountainTrue

“MountainTrue is so grateful to DEQ for listening to affected communities and heeding the science showing that full excavation is the only safe option for coal ash closure in our state.

MountainTrue and the Sierra Club launched the focus on coal ash in North Carolina in 2012 as part of the Asheville Beyond Coal campaign. Through that campaign, we secured the forthcoming retirement of Asheville’s coal plant on Lake Julian and the full excavation of those coal ash ponds. This put Asheville’s air and water on a pathway to a cleaner future, but the future for the people and environment in Cliffside and other frontline communities across the state were until now uncertain. This historic decision by DEQ will change all of that.

MountainTrue is grateful for the affected community members who spoke out at hearing after hearing to help secure this victory, as well as for grassroots organizers all across the state and partner organizations like the Southern Environmental Law Center who made this outcome possible. We will continue to monitor this process closely, and we call on North Carolina’s legislators to help ensure that DEQ’s decision is implemented efficiently and justly for the people of North Carolina.”

Julie Mayfield, Co-Director for MountainTrue

For more information: https://deq.nc.gov/news/press-releases/2019/04/01/deq-orders-duke-energy-excavate-coal-ash-six-remaining-sites

 

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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.

Consumers and Advocates Ask NC Utilities Commission to Reject Duke’s Half-Billion Dollar Rate Hike

Consumers and Advocates Ask NC Utilities Commission to Reject Duke’s Half-Billion Dollar Rate Hike

 

Consumers and Advocates Ask NC Utilities Commission to Reject Duke’s Half-Billion Dollar Rate Hike

 

For Immediate Release:

September 14, 2017

Asheville — Duke Energy customers and environmental, consumer and welfare advocates are calling on the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reject a proposal by Duke Energy to make consumers pay for the company’s coal ash cleanup through higher bills and fees. Duke customers can make their opposition known at a public hearing of the Utilities Commission on Wednesday, September 27 at 7 p.m. at the Buncombe County Courthouse.

Duke Energy’s proposal would amount to a $477.5 million increase in the amount that Duke can collect from its ratepayers each year. The typical residential customer would see the fixed charge that they pay every month, regardless of the amount of energy that they use, nearly double from $11.13 to $19.50. Their electric rates would increase on average by 16.7%, approximately $18 more per month.

Customers and advocates oppose the plan because it puts the entire burden for costs related to the cleanup of toxic coal ash on the customer. Of the nearly half-billion dollar increase that Duke is requesting of the Commission, $311 million is for recovery for costs spent excavating coal ash at its Asheville, Mayo, Roxboro, Cape Fear, Lee, Robinson, Sutton and Weatherspoon facilities in 2015 and 2016. Duke estimates that its coal ash cleanup costs at those plants will total more than $2.5 billion over the next 40 years.

Opponents of the rate hike are confident that they are on solid legal ground in asking for the Utilities Commission to reject the rate hike and fee increase. North Carolina law only allows for a utility’s cost to be paid by customers if they are reasonable and prudent. Duke Energy’s own insurance providers have refused to cover costs associated with Duke’s coal ash liabilities, citing Duke’s failure “to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate” the damages resulting from coal ash disposal. In 2015, Duke Energy pled guilty to violating environmental laws related to coal ash pollution from five of its North Carolina power plants.

“Coal ash has resulted in the contamination of lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies,” explains Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper at MountainTrue, a western North Carolina nonprofit that led the fight for cleaner energy and the cleanup of Duke’s coal ash pits. “North Carolina residents have already paid a heavy price, and now Duke Energy wants to bill us for their negligence and mismanagement, too.”

Present in coal ash are heavy metals and toxic chemicals that can be harmful to humans and wildlife. Arsenic poisoning can lead to heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes. Cobalt has been linked to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, blood poisoning, liver injury and thyroid problems. Chromium is a carcinogen, and hexavalent chromium was the subject of the movie Erin Brockovich, which was based on the true story of groundwater contamination in Hinkley, California by Pacific Gas Electric Company.

MountainTrue and other advocates are encouraging members of the public who have concerns about Duke Energy’s proposal to attend the public hearing of the Utilities Commission on Wednesday, September 27 at 7 p.m. at the Buncombe County Courthouse.

 

Media Contact:

Karim Olaechea

Communications Director, MountainTrue

E: karim@mountiantrue.org; C: 415.535.9004

 

About MountainTrue

MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work, and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all residents of WNC. MountainTrue is home to the French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, Watauga Riverkeeper and the Broad River Alliance, the protectors and defenders of their respective watersheds.

 

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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.

We Need To Continue Civic Conversation on Wildfire, Then Act

We Need To Continue Civic Conversation on Wildfire, Then Act

We Need To Continue the Civic Conversation on Wildfire, Then Act

Last year (2016), the Southeast experienced a historic wildfire season that raged across northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Firefighters from 21 states converged on the region to combat fires that destroyed more than 150,000 acres. In Tennessee, the Chimney Tops 2 fire destroyed sections of the city of Gatlinburg and claimed 14 lives. In North Carolina, the fires forced evacuation, threatened homes and blanketed our region with an acrid haze that was bad for both human health and our local economies.

These fires were faster-moving and more dangerous because of several interrelated trends: climate change is making droughts more severe and frequent and creating drier conditions, lean budgets have prevented forest managers from conducting necessary controlled burns and reducing fuel loads, and our region’s population growth has increased the number of people living in the wildland-urban interface — where homes butt up against dense forest and vegetation.

These are important issues that we cannot afford to ignore. MountainTrue has been working to facilitate a better understanding of wildfire risks. We organized a presentation featuring MountainTrue’s public lands field biologist Josh Kelly and Jim Fox of the National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center in December of 2016 and a larger panel discussion of experts on April 3, 2017 at Highland Brewing Company in Asheville featuring Dr. Steve Norman and Dr. Katie Greenberg of the US Forest Service, Adam Warwick who is the fire and stewardship manager for The Nature Conservancy’s Southern Blue Ridge Program; and Joan Walker, campaigns director with MountainTrue, who is an expert on community planning. We will continue with wildfire-themed events in Highlands and the High Country.

Raising awareness will not be enough. We need to take action at every level. Homeowners can take the first step by implementing the recommendations of the Firewise Communities Program (firewise.org) which is co-sponsored by USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior, and the National Association of State Foresters, and encourages individuals to take personal responsibility for preparing their home from the risk of wildfire. Similarly, local governments, home builders and communities should implement the standards and best practices set out by the Fire Adapted Communities coalition (fireadapted.org).

Lastly, counties within Western North Carolina historically have had an aversion to zoning and regulation. In the face of rapid population growth, civic leaders should embrace common sense policies regarding construction near steep slopes, and zoning to encourage urban density. Not only would these help combat sprawl and help maintain the attractive vistas that our mountain economies depend upon, they would are also crucial to keeping our communities safe from the growing threat of wildfires.


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.

Mountain Xpress: Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand

Mountain Xpress: Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand

Mountain Xpress: Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand

Did you catch this recent MountainXpress article —  “Heat pumps drive rapid growth in WNC’s peak electricity demand”? Virginia Daffron takes a look at some of the strategies that we’ll be advocating for with Duke Energy, the City of Asheville, Buncombe County and all the community partners participating in the Asheville Energy Innovation Task Force.

Through the task force, MountainTrue has joined forces with fellow community leaders and stakeholders to set an ambitious goal for Western North Carolina: to avoid or delay Duke Energy’s plans to build a new power plant to meet our region’s growing electricity demand. Together. we’re developing strategies to reduce our community’s demand through proven energy saving solutions and by fostering innovative partnerships.

We can put WNC on the path to a clean energy future and everyone has an important role to play! Click here or contact our Campaigns Director Joan Walker to learn how to get involved with the Energy Innovation Task Force.


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 DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Tell DEQ to Stop Duke’s Water Pollution at Cliffside

Click here to Send your letter NOW telling DEQ to withdraw the proposed Cliffside wastewater permit and amend it to adequately protect water quality in the Broad River.

It seems like the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) just can’t get it right when it comes to getting Duke Energy fix their polluting coal ash dumps.  Time and time again we see the agency fall short of making the progress needed to protect our waterways and communities and the new draft wastewater discharge permit for the Rogers Energy Complex (a.k.a. Cliffside power plant) in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties is no different.

 

For years the coal ash dumps at Cliffside have contaminated groundwater and waterways with toxic heavy metals and constituents like arsenic, chromium, cadmium and others, threatening nearby residents and who overwhelmingly spoke out demanding a full clean up of the site in March of this year.

Instead of responding to locals’ call with definitive action and requiring Duke to stop toxic discharges to public waters, DEQ has fallen short of its duty…again. The draft wastewater permit converts existing streams into Duke’s own wastewater channels, papers over illegal discharges by attempting to permit them, fails to define limits for how much toxic heavy metals can flow into the Broad River, purports to waive water quality standards in a 12-mile mixing zone for some discharges and misses other opportunities to require Duke to clean up their mess. 

This is unacceptable. Our state should protect people, not polluters, and MountainTrue is encouraging all community members to speak out against DEQ’s proposed permit. Attend the public hearing on November 10 and submit your written comments online telling DEQ to withdraw the proposed permit and amend it to adequately protect water quality in the Broad River. Please don’t forget to share with your friends and family.


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.