Duke Energy’s coal ash appeal continues despite judge’s ruling

Duke Energy’s coal ash appeal continues despite judge’s ruling

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The ongoing battle over whether Duke Energy must close nine coal ash ponds in North Carolina reached another legal milestone last Friday, when an administrative law judge ruled that the state’s Department of Environmental Quality has the authority to force Duke to excavate these coal ash basins by 2030.

While the ruling is seemingly a positive for those advocating for this method of disposal of the toxic waste, Duke Energy’s appeal continues, as it believes the decision is “wrong, not based in science and engineering – and not in the best interest of our customers and communities.”

“The state’s decision on basin closure mandates the most extreme option for the lowest-risk basins, ignoring information that clearly shows capping the ash in place would continue to fully protect people and the environment,” Duke Energy further said in a statement. “By contrast, excavation would drastically increase the cost to customers and create decades of disruption for communities – with no measurable benefit – compared to safely capping the ash in place.”

In April, the NCDEQ ruled that Duke Energy must remove coal ash from nine basins where it has been stored for decades.

“I am very pleased with the judge’s ruling. It confirms that DEQ has the authority to select the method of closure for coal ash impoundments,” said NCDEQ Secretary Michael Regan. “DEQ stands by its determination that the best way to protect public health, communities and the environment is to excavate coal ash impoundments across the state. We will continue to defend that decision as this appeal moves forward.”

Why is coal ash a concern?

Coal has long been the top choice of power companies to generate electricity, though burning coal results in the formation of coal ash, which contains contaminants such as arsenic, mercury and cadmium. There is a great deal of concern that coal ash can pollute waterways, ground water, drinking water and the air. There’s also the risk of those being exposed to these contaminants becoming sick.

Duke already had agreed to excavate ponds at eight of its sites in North Carolina, but had previously planned to retire coal ash ponds at its remaining six sites in the state (nine ponds in all) by capping them in place, meaning that it would drain the ponds and cover them. Duke estimates that requiring excavation of these six additional sites would add $4 billion to $5 billion to the $5.6 billion cost of its proposed plan.

Duke’s appeal of this order stands in contrast to the state of Virginia recently requiring Dominion Energy to excavate all of its coal ash ponds. Georgia has a situation similar to North Carolina, where Georgia Power is excavating only 19 of its 29 ponds.

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No matter what happens with Duke Energy’s ongoing appeal, the power company’s cost to clean up its coal ash mess will cost those in North Carolina in the billions, and those costs likely will be passed on to customers in the form of rate increases. Duke Energy customers in North Carolina fed up with rate increases have a clean energy alternative to getting the majority of electricity needed for their homes. By going solar with help from POWERHOME Solar, you can choose where you get that power.

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