Energy Report

Coal Ash Storage and Cleanup Problems Continue Across the Southeast

Date: April 12, 2017

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By Elizabeth E. Payne

Many North Carolina residents living near Duke Energy coal ash ponds are weighing their options for getting access to clean drinking water. In February, residents of Rowan County met to consider both municipal water and filtration systems for their wells. Duke is required by state law to provide a safe, permanent solution.

The company is also offering residents $5,000 if they promise to not sue the company in the future. Duke is also seeking rate hikes to transfer the cost of coal ash cleanup to ratepayers.

Madison and Eden, N.C., have upgraded their local water treatment facilities because of bromide in their water that originated from the Belews Creek coal ash impoundment ponds. When bromide is mixed with chlorine, it creates a cancer-causing agent.

A bill working its way through the Virginia legislature could establish a one-year moratorium on coal ash pond closures while other options are studied. The original Senate Bill 1398 included the moratorium, which was then removed by the House of Delegates but reinstated by an amendment by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The Virginia House also removed language that would have required the state Department of Environmental Quality to consider the findings of environmental assessments before issuing closure permits.

Many who oppose the cap-in-place closure of the ash ponds at Virginia’s Possum Point Power Station support the moratorium, which would give regulators more time to study the situation.

The General Assembly will consider the governor’s amendment again in April.
In Georgia, residents are pushing back against the disposal of out-of-state coal ash in their landfills. But none of the related bills before the state’s legislature made it out of committee.

Of particular concern is a plan to bury 10,000 tons of coal ash daily in a landfill in Wayne County. At least some of this ash would come from a Duke Energy site in North Carolina. The company that operates the landfill only needs a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a rail yard large enough to accept this much ash before proceeding.

In Kentucky, a rule that would remove most of the state’s oversight in permitting coal ash ponds is moving forward. As currently written, companies would not need permits before building sites, and complaints could only be raised after violations have occurred. Utility companies may have influenced the changes to the rule, according to WFPL, Louisville’s NPR news station.

And in an Alabama victory, a landfill company dropped a $30 million defamation suit against residents of Uniontown who raised concerns about health problems that occurred one a nearby landfill began accepting coal ash.

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