Duke Energy required to dig up N.C. coal ash ponds, likely costing customers billions

Duke Energy required to dig up N.C. coal ash ponds, likely costing customers billions

Last Updated: June 10th, 2019 at 9:21 pm
Read Time: 3 Minutes

Duke Energy has been ordered by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to excavate coal ash located at six power plants in the state and place the material in lined landfills, the agency announced earlier this week.

The move affects nine ponds at these six facilities and millions of tons of coal ash in all, according to a report from the Charlotte Observer’s Bruce Henderson. The cleanup is likely to cost Duke Energy ratepayers billions of dollars and take decades to complete.

“DEQ rigorously reviewed the proposals, and the science points us clearly to excavation as the only way to protect public health and the environment,” Secretary Michael Regan said in a statement. “Today’s action sends another clear message that protecting public health and natural resources is a top priority of the [Gov. Roy] Cooper administration.”

Why coal ash is a problem

Coal ash contains contaminants such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which “without proper management” can pollute “waterways, groundwater, drinking water and the air,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The contamination of groundwater from coal ash has raised concerns from environmentalists about the potential effects that it could have on drinking water for those living near coal-ash sites.

Henderson reports that Duke has already begun or completed excavation of its 22 other coal ash ponds in the state “under state law requirements, legal settlements or the company’s own decisions,” meaning that all 31 of Duke’s ponds in North Carolina will be drained, with the ash dug up and placed in lined landfills.

The DEQ’s move comes just weeks after the state of Virginia enacted legislation that requires Dominion Energy to excavate its own coal ash, a law that will allow Dominion to recover billions from its customers for that cleanup.

Duke Energy customers likely will be paying for cleanup

The bad news for Duke Energy customers is that company spokesperson Paige Sheehan told the Charlotte Observer that the utility “would certainly seek cost recovery” from its customers for these cleanup efforts. “The Utilities Commission has already determined in previous cases that it is an appropriate expense in the life cycle of the power plants,” Sheehan said.

Last June, the state’s Utilities Commission ruled that Duke Energy could recover hundreds of millions of dollars from customers to cover money already spent to clean up coal ash sites in the state, Henderson reported.

How much additional money be required for cleanup? Per Henderson’s report:

Excavation will also add $4 billion to $5 billion to the previous cleanup estimates of $5.6 billion for the Carolinas, which had assumed the nine ponds targeted Monday would be capped, Sheehan said.

Unless the DEQ’s decision is challenged, Duke Energy customers figure to be paying for this cleanup for a long time.

Solar is the clean energy alternative

While it is good for North Carolina to have a plan to deal with this coal ash, the better news is that going solar at your home with help from POWERHOME Solar is a way of insulating yourself from having to pay for those expected rate increases due to cleanup. Instead of paying Duke Energy for power, you’ll be paying for your own energy – clean, carbon-free energy. And when you pay off your panels, all the energy that your panels create will be completely free to you.

POWERHOME Solar installs panels that come with a 30-year warranty and are American-made. We recently helped the Carolina Panthers go solar at Bank of America Stadium, and we would love to help all homeowners and businesses in North Carolina go solar, save money on their electric bills and do a great thing for the environment. And with the 30 percent federal tax credit available on newly-installed solar systems through the end of 2019, homeowners that qualify for the credit stand to save even more money.

Please call us at 800-765-2715, and one of our associates will be able to assist you in getting started.