Leaving coal ash in place is not a cleanup plan

Appalachian Voices • Greenpeace • NC Conservation Network • NC League of Conservation Voters • Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation • Pamlico-Tar River Foundation • Southern Alliance for Clean Energy • Waterkeeper Alliance • Western North Carolina Alliance

In spite of 11th hour negotiations Thursday night, the North Carolina House and Senate failed to come to agreement on their weak, incomplete coal ash management bills, putting the impetus back on Duke Energy and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to remove coal ash from unlined pits near waterways.

The Senate proposed an inadequate bill back in June; the House significantly weakened that proposal, and ultimately, the conference committee found itself at a stalemate to address North Carolina’s coal ash problem.

“This is a multi-layered failure of leadership. Both chambers failed to offer the comprehensive cleanup plan they promised at the outset of session,” said Donna Lisenby, global coal campaign coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance. “Then they failed to take any action at all. We hope that lawmakers’ return in November will be a reboot of priorities. All North Carolina communities need protection from coal ash.”

Aging, unlined coal ash lagoons are leaching arsenic, chromium, mercury, lead, cadmium, boron, and other pollutants into rivers, streams and groundwater at every single Duke Energy facility in the state. Under public pressure, Duke Energy has already publicly volunteered to move ash from the Dan River, Riverbend, Sutton and Asheville facilities into lined landfills away from waterways. In the absence of clear directives from the legislature, they must keep that promise.

“It’s important that Duke keeps its word to clean up the four sites it has committed to, but that alone only makes a small dent in the problem,” said Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “Instead of talking about closure – another word for throwing a tarp over the ash and walking away from the mess – Duke should be following South Carolina’s example and making an aggressive push to protect North Carolina communities by moving all ash to lined storage away from waterways.”

A judge’s ruling earlier this year confirmed that DENR has the authority to force Duke to take immediate action to eliminate sources of groundwater contamination at all 14 sites.

“State environmental officials don’t need any additional action from the legislature to allow them to demand a comprehensive cleanup that stops the rampant pollution of rivers, streams and groundwater, and leaves communities at risk,” said Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices. “What are they waiting for?”

When lawmakers return to Raleigh in November, they’ll have another chance to address this threat to our public health and precious rivers, lakes and streams.

“We hope they get it right,” said Caroline Hansley, Raleigh field organizer for Greenpeace. “Any plan that rolls back current law by allowing Duke Energy to leave its coal ash in place is wholly inadequate, and would be a great disappointment for North Carolina.”


For additional comment, please contact:
Amy Adams, Appalachian Voices, 828-262-1500, amy@appvoices.org
Caroline Hansley, Greenpeace, 919-899-9079, caroline.hansley@greenpeace.org
Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, 919-856-1180, matthew@neuseriver.org
Donna Lisenby, Waterkeeper Alliance, 704-277-6055, dlisenby@waterkeeper.org