Duke Energy protesters gather in Stokes County

WALNUT COVE, N.C. — Citizens rallied in Walnut Cove Friday, addressing issues related to Duke Energy’s coal ash spill in Eden and questioning the governor’s ties to the power company. The event was near Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Steam Station.

Gerrick Brenner with Progress NC Action said the press conference was planned four days ahead of a hearing for the U.S. Attorney’s federal investigation.

“In the spirit of this grand jury hearing happening on Tuesday, we wanted to provide some evidence of our own,” Brenner said.

“Gov. McCrory owns at least $10,000 in Duke Energy stock,” Brenner added. “There are potentially some serious conflicts of interest. But he won’t say how much stock he owns.”

Gov. McCrory has repeatedly denied any allegations of favoritism toward Duke Energy. He worked for the company for 28 years. He told FOX8 he is disappointed Duke Energy did not have sufficient knowledge of infrastructure at the Eden site.

Kim Porter with NC Warn also addressed cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash sites around the state, saying, “All toxic coal ash should be moved to lined landfills away from water sources and residential communities so it cannot poison our drinking water.”

In a letter Wednesday, Duke Energy promised the state it would “permanently close the Dan River ash ponds and move ash away from the river.”

It also said they were working to move ash away from at least three other sites. The plan did not specifically address coal ash waste from the Belews Creek Steam Station in Stokes County. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently notified Duke Energy it was violating permit requirements at that location.

Stokes County resident Linda Hicks said, “We know it’s right here on Belews Creek, too, the same kind of mess is going to happen if something isn’t done.”

The Duke Energy letter said cost estimates for cleaning up coal ash sites would depend on which methods were approved. It did not detail who would pay for the cleanup. It said long-term cleanup plans were still in development.

The company estimates it will take 24-30 months to clean up and close the Eden site.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is calling Duke Energy’s plan “inadequate.”

“Clean up this mess,” insisted Linda Sutton, who spoke at the press conference as a Duke customer. “And most of all, do not — I repeat do not — put the cost of this cleanup on the backs of the citizens.”

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