Concerned neighbors of N.C. coal plant speak out

Kara Dodson, Field Coordinator, 828-262-1500,
Cat McCue, Communications Director, 434-293-6373,

Residents living near Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plant on Belews Lake, northeast of Winston-Salem, are worried that toxic air and water pollution from the plant over many years has caused health and environmental problems in their community. They share their concerns in a video titled, “At What Cost?”, released today by Appalachian Voices.

At What Cost? A N.C. community worries about coal pollution from Appalachian Voices on Vimeo.

The video features five former and current residents of Stokes County, most of whom have lived in the area much of their lives and have either suffered illness, had friends or family who’ve become sick, or have seen a diminishing of the area’s wildlife and other natural resources.

The Belews Creek power station, owned by Duke Energy, was built 40 years ago and is one of the company’s largest coal-burning plants. In addition to having significant air emissions, state regulators have documented groundwater contamination from the facility’s coal ash dumps.

“I love to turn the switch on and have my lights just like anybody else, but at what cost?,” asks one of the people in the video, Annie Brown, who became sick at 22. “If I had known that this stuff was toxic, I wouldn’t be living where I’m living now.”

Appalachian Voices is releasing the video in advance of Duke Energy’s shareholder meeting on Thursday, May 1, at Duke’s headquarters in Charlotte, with the aim of making the utility’s shareholders and board of directors aware of the potential health implications of the company’s practice of storing wet coal ash in unlined pits.

“Duke is one of the most profitable companies in the U.S., yet people living near its coal plants are suffering, quite possibly due to toxic pollution from burning coal and inadequately storing the coal ash,” said Kara Dodson, Appalachian Voices field coordinator. “Cleaning up these coal ash pits is the responsible thing to do.”

Appalachian Voices and partner organizations are calling on Duke to remove the wet coal ash from Belews Creek and from all of the impoundments it has in North Carolina, and move it to dry landfills away from water sources. Dodson noted that in South Carolina, as a result of legal action, South Carolina Electric & Gas agreed to remove more than 2.4 million tons of coal ash at its Wateree plant.

Environmental, social and labor justice groups are organizing a press conference at 9:00 AM Thursday, immediately prior to the Duke shareholder meeting. Several hundred North Carolinians are expected to turn out to hear leaders, including Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, speak out against Duke’s harmful business practices and urge the utility to implement more renewable, clean energy sources.

Appalachian Voices is also calling on the North Carolina legislature to set a deadline for Duke to remove all its coal ash from unlined pits across the state.

Appalachian Voices is an award-winning, environmental nonprofit organization committed to protecting the natural resources of central and southern Appalachia, focusing on reducing coal’s impact on the region and advancing our vision for a cleaner energy future. Founded in 1997, we are headquartered in Boone, N.C. with offices in Charlottesville, Va.; Knoxville, Tn. and Washington, D.C.