Coal Ash News and Media
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April 8, 2014 (AP)
By Michael Biesecker/Associated Press
North Carolina regulators are joining with Duke Energy in appealing a judge’s ruling on cleaning up groundwater pollution leeching from the company’s coal ash dumps.
The state Environmental Management Commission filed notice Monday that it intends to appeal a March 6 ruling by Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway.
The commission and Duke contend North Carolina law does not give the state the authority to order an immediate cleanup. Ridgeway ruled the state had been misinterpreting the law for years.
Environmentalists say the decision to file an appeal directly conflicts with public statements from Gov. Pat McCrory suggesting his administration is getting tough with his former employer after a Feb. 2 coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge.
McCrory, a Republican, worked for Duke more than 28 years prior to retiring to run for governor. The nation’s largest electricity company and its employees have remained generous political supporters to McCrory’s campaign and GOP-aligned groups that support him, providing more than $1.1 million in support since 2008.
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March 20, 2014
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The Southern Environmental Law Center today filed motions to allow four conservation groups working on the Dan River to participate in the state court enforcement action against Duke Energy for its illegal coal ash pollution of the Dan River and groundwater drinking supplies. SELC filed the motion on behalf of groups that monitor and protect the Dan River– the Dan River Basin Association, the Roanoke River Basin Association, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Waterkeeper Alliance. They identified numerous illegal discharges ignored by the state in the aftermath of Duke’s disastrous coal ash spill last month.
“The tragic Dan River spill and the revelations of uncomfortably close ties between Duke Energy and DENR make it all the more important that citizens and local conservation groups have a seat at the table,” said Frank Holleman, the senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the groups in court. “We will work to make sure that the Dan River is protected and that Duke Energy cleans up the Dan River site.”
The groups seek to stop and clean up unpermitted streams of contaminated surface water that have been discharging from the dikes of the Dan River coal ash lagoons since before the spill and are continuing today, as well as persistent groundwater pollution leaching from these unlined impoundments that documentation shows Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources have known about since the early 1990s. The illegal discharges at Dan River include high levels of coal ash pollutants such as arsenic and lead.
March 20, 2014
Speakers, residents and clean water advocates will rally at Island Ford Landing in Eden on World Water Day, Saturday, March 22 from noon to 1:30 to celebrate the Dan River and all the rivers throughout the Dan River Basin, and call on Duke Energy to provide information on how it plans to clean up from last month’s coal ash spill at the Dan River power plant.
Last month, more than 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 24 million gallons of contaminated wastewater spilled from Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundments north of Eden, spurring significant public outcry to protect all of North Carolina’s rivers from this dangerous threat. The spill also created a stigma on the rivers here, said Jenny Edwards, program manager for the Dan River Basin Association.
“Recovery from this disaster includes changing the public perception that the entire Dan is toxic, because that’s just not the case,” Edwards said.
Having trouble keeping track of all the developments since the Dan River disaster began over a month ago? We continue to be amazed that the coal ash spill and subsequent developments have been in the news almost every day. This story has more twists and turns than the Dan River itself; sparking significant public outcry, a federal investigation into Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Gov. McCrory’s request for Duke’s coal ash plans and more. Keeping up with the latest developments has been challenging, so we compiled this retrospective timeline showing how this story has unfolded over the weeks. Please share!
February 2: A stormwater pipe bursts beneath an unlined coal ash impoundment at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River plant, spilling coal ash and contaminated wastewater directly into the Dan River.
February 3: Approximately 26 hours after the spill began Duke Energy finally notifies the public. NC Department of Natural Resources staff are on the scene helping to control the leak and begin taking water quality samples. Even at this early stage, with no water quality testing of the River or coal ash complete, officials downstream in Danville say the city’s drinking water will be safe.
Over a month has passed since a broken stormwater pipe under coal ash lagoons at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River power station began spewing 140,000 tons of toxic waste into the Dan River*. The nation’s 3rd largest coal ash disaster has been fraught with scandal and news about the intimate relationship between Duke Energy and NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) appears nearly every day. We have collected almost 200 unique articles and other media hits (and counting) on our dedicated Dan River news page. Coming on the heels of the West Virginia water crisis, it seems the public is more aware than ever of how high risk energy choices threaten the public’s waters. This is the ash spill that keeps on giving new developments that promise a safer, cleaner future for North Carolina’s communities and waters; like yesterday’s court ruling requiring Duke take immediate action to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants in North Caroina.
All this attention on coal ash and latest ruling has only driven Duke Energy to make vague promises regarding future clean up of the Dan River spill and their other coal ash sites; we have yet to see any definitive plans to remove ash from the river or out of the failed Dan River impoundments. Following the unprecedented scrutiny, NC DENR and Governor McCrory issued violations against Duke Energy for their coal ash impoundment problems following years of lax regulatory oversight and friendly settlements of litigation brought by citizen groups.
In the meantime, while the humans argue, the river’s ecosystems and wildlife are suffering from the 70-mile long bar of ash coating the river bottom and those who live, work and play on the river are left to wonder about the long-term consequences.
March 6, 2014
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—A Wake County Judge today ruled that Duke Energy must take immediate action to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination that are currently violating water quality standards at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.
The ruling comes in the wake of recent claims by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that it lacks the legal authority to require cleanup of the ash ponds which hold millions of gallons of toxic coal ash. DENR’s comments were made in response to the February 2014 coal ash spill that dumped up to 35,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
“The ruling leaves no doubt, Duke Energy is past due on its obligation to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination, its unlined coal ash pits, and the State has both the authority and a duty to require action now,” said D.J. Gerken, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the conservation groups in the case. “This ruling enforces a common-sense requirement in existing law – before you can clean up contaminated groundwater, you first must stop the source of the contamination- in this case, Duke’s unlined coal ash pits.”
Data collected by DENR over several years indicates that many of Duke’s coal-fired power plants are causing groundwater contamination by storing hazardous coal ash in unlined pits often adjacent to major bodies of water, including drinking water reservoirs. The state has asserted however that it can take no action without first determining how far contamination has spread and that it lacks the legal power to require Duke to remove ash from the ponds. Today’s ruling clarifies the State’s authority under the North Carolina groundwater protection law to require Duke to stop the ponds from further contaminating groundwater, before it tackles the long term challenge of cleaning up the groundwater it has already polluted.
By Bruce Henderson/Charlotte Observer
February 25, 2014
Gov. Pat McCrory told Duke Energy on Tuesday that he wants its coal ash ponds statewide moved away from drinking-water sources.
McCrory and environment Secretary John Skvarla wrote Duke CEO Lynn Good that “as a state we will not stand by while coal ash ponds remain a danger due to their proximity to where so many North Carolinians get their drinking water.”
The governor, a former Duke Energy executive, and other state officials have been under political pressure to crack down on Duke’s ash since a Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River gained national attention.
Protesters gathered outside Duke’s Charlotte headquarters Tuesday chanting “Shame!” as they delivered petitions signed by 9,000 people demanding ash be removed from near waterways.
McCrory’s letter, reported by Raleigh’s WRAL.com, expresses “our primary desire that coal ash ponds be moved away from these essential resources.”
It demands that Duke supply options, costs and other details about its ash ponds to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources by March 15.
A lawyer for environmental advocates who have battled Duke and DENR over ash remained skeptical of McCrory’s commitment.
“I think it’s good the governor is reacting finally and is communicating with the CEO of Duke Energy, but given everything that’s happened, actions speak louder than words,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “He says they’re not going to stand for it anymore, but if you’re not going to stand for it any more, clean up the mess.”
Holleman said McCrory and DENR could go to court to order Duke to clean out the ash ponds. The ponds are scattered at 14 operating and retired power plants statewide.
The environment department, meanwhile, said separately Tuesday that it might force Duke to remove the coal ash from the Dan River power plant that was the scene of the spill.
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This post was originally published on February 14, 2014 on Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Footprints blog and is reposted here with permission.
While old-fashioned romance might go over well with your sweetie this Valentine’s day, old-fashioned coal ash dumps scattered across the Southeast need to go. The recent Dan River coal ash spill once again proved that leaving millions of gallons of toxic waste in unlined pits next to our rivers, lakes and streams is no way to show love for the precious water resources we all depend on.
Six days after it started, Duke Energy finally stopped the flow of toxic coal ash to the Dan River. Their temporary fix plugged the leaking pipe and redirects ash and wastewater from the river, though a permanent fix has yet to be found and the Waterkeeper Alliance has identified other leaks onsite. In the aftermath of the nation’s 3rd largest coal ash disaster, the State of North Carolina has quickly been outed for their cozy relationship with Duke Energy, their shortcomings resulting in and reacting to this spill.
Consistent national attention and local outrage about this disaster led to multiple developments this week including a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney General’s office investigating criminal negligence in the creation and handling of this epic event. Additionally, NC DENR has now asked a state judge to put a hold to their “sweetheart” settlement with Duke Energy and create a task force to review the state’s coal ash facilities at all 14 of Duke Energy’s NC power plants. Every day there continue to be new developments with the spill, check out our dedicated page for the latest news and updates.
This blog was originally published by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy here.
Four days after the Southeast’s most recent coal ash disaster began, Duke Energy has yet to stop coal ash flowing into the Dan River. The impoundment failure is now the nation’s 3rd worst coal ash disaster and 13 additional Duke Energy power plants lurk across the state with old ash impoundments, already cited in lawsuits as problematic. The murky grey plume of toxic waste continues to travel downstream and is now entering Danville, VA’s drinking water intake. Officials there continue to say the water is safe to drink despite the lack of lab results from NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) testing for toxic heavy metals in the contaminated river or the drinking water itself.
Test results from Waterkeeper Alliance are due out momentarily and will show that heavy metal levels are significantly higher than drinking water standards allow. Samples were taken just downstream of the spill. Since the spill began, both Duke Energy and the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been slow to update the public on developments. Groups on the ground now tell us the utility may be trying to block public access to the river near the coal ash spill.
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