As Fallout from Coal Ash Spill Grows, NC Governor Pat McCrory Calls for Removing Ash Ponds from Waterways
As national attention remains focused on North Carolina in wake of Duke Energy’s massive coal ash spill into the Dan River, North Carolina’s Governor has now called on Duke Energy and North Carolina officials to address the long-term problem of coal ash storage throughout the state in the only way that will stop ongoing pollution and remove the risk of more spills: move the ash.
Governor Pat McCrory for the first time called on Duke to remove its coal ash ponds from NC waterways. The Greensboro News & Record has reported that McCrory, who worked for Duke for 28 years, said to business leaders yesterday: “First of all, they’ve got to fix what’s broken, and then they’ve got to have a long-term solution of moving the ash ponds so they don’t cause long-term issues with our water anywhere in North Carolina and, frankly, with our neighboring states.” Gov. McCrory’s administration has been the subject of intense criticism and a federal grand jury criminal investigation related to Duke Energy’s coal ash storage at Dan River and DENR’s activities.
“We’re pleased to see that Governor McCrory has recognized that removing toxic coal ash from the banks of our rivers and drinking reservoirs – the long-term solution that is working today in South Carolina – is the also right solution for North Carolina and our region,” said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has represented several conservation groups in legal actions regarding Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution across the Carolinas. “We call on Duke Energy and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to heed the Governor’s words and take immediate action to remove this dangerous and illegal coal ash pollution from our waterways.”
Conservation groups have long argued that Duke Energy needs to move its toxic coal ash to lined landfills away from rivers and lakes and have filed legal action to try to remove this threat. Yet over the past year, the state blocked lawsuits from these groups and proposed settlements seen as highly favorable to Duke Energy that would not have required coal ash clean-up, instead imposing only token fines.
Following lawsuits by the Southern Environmental Law Center, two of the three utilities in the Carolinas – South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper – are removing coal ash from unlined pits near rivers in South Carolina to safer dry, lined storage facilities away from rivers and lakes. Neither utility has raised its rates as a result.
The Dan River site is one of fourteen coal ash sites managed by Duke Energy that are the subject of similar lawsuits ongoing in North Carolina state court. Public concern remains high in wake of the Dan River coal ash spill, the nation’s third largest ever, particularly as McCrory also commented yesterday that an initial study has shown a second pipe at Duke’s plant could result in new coal ash leakage.