Front Porch Blog

North Carolina sides with Duke Energy by appealing coal ash ruling

A coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s Buck Power Plant. Photo by Les Stone / Greenpeace

A coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s Buck Power Plant. Photo by Les Stone / Greenpeace

Why would the state ask a judge to take away its legal authority to stop groundwater pollution?

For years, North Carolina has known that Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds are illegally contaminating groundwater. Yet the state has not taken any action to force Duke to correct the violations.

In fact, the N.C. Environmental Management Commission, the body that oversees the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and determines what DENR can enforce, determined two years ago that the state did not have the authority to make Duke clean up the source of its illegal pollution — coal ash ponds.

Last month, to the relief of concerned citizens and environmental groups, a superior court judge reversed the EMC’s prior decision, ruling that the state actually does have the legal authority to force Duke Energy to immediately clean up its coal ash ponds.

As expected, Duke Energy appealed the judge’s decision. Last week, however, in a move that surprised many, the EMC also appealed the judge’s decision. Why would the state ask a judge to take away it’s legal authority to stop groundwater pollution?

The answer likely has to do with who makes up the EMC and how they were appointed. A local Raleigh news station, WNCN, did some digging and found that at least eight of the fifteen EMC members have ties to Duke Energy or other major power companies. For example, the chairman, Benne Hutson, works for a law firm that has represented Duke Energy in court.

Given that the EMC is appointed by the Senate president pro tempore, the House speaker, and the governor — who worked for Duke Energy for 28 years — it’s not surprising that the commission has chosen to pander to corporate interests rather than adequately protect North Carolina’s water and its citizens health.

A sunny-spirited North Carolinian with a passion for hiking, viola, ceramics and poetry, Sarah joined Appalachian Voices as our 2013-14 Americorps Education Outreach Associate and later served as our N.C. Coordinator working on coal ash cleanup and pipeline awareness from 2014-2016.


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4 COMMENTS
  1. Tim says:

    Money talks, and you get what you pay for. In this case little poor people lose and the rich win. I hope they don’t take it sitting down!

  2. Concerned Citizen says:

    The Government is supposed to represent the Citizens. Clearly this case highlights how our Government is bought and paid for by Corporate America.

    These Government Representative’s should be charged with violation of Fiduciary Duty.

  3. Joe Gerard says:

    Why ? Because Duke Energy OWNS the Governor and the politicians , lock , stock and barrel . And the dummies in N.Carolina voted them in . Now they got to “drink the water ” .

  4. Rick Nelson says:

    North Carolinians had better not let this stand because this governor is also in favor of hydrofracking as well. Polluting the environment is bad business not only in terms of health risk to the population, but also undermines tourism,(ya know, threatens the only thing that matters to republicans$$$$$$$$$).

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