Duke Energy appeals order to excavate coal ash basins across North Carolina

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Duke Energy plans to appeal an order from the state requiring the power company to excavate the remaining nine ash basins across five counties in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality ordered excavation on April 1, specifically targeting the basins at Duke Energy’s Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside/Rogers, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro facilities.

On Thursday, Duke Energy issued a statement arguing that excavation would put financial strain on customers, suggesting the company would recoup the cost by increasing energy bills.

The DEQ had determined that excavation of the sites was the only option that meet the requirements of the Coal Ash Management Act “to best protect public health,” specifically by disposing of the ash in a lined landfill.

The company described the NCDEQ’s order as “the most expensive and disruptive closure option possible,” adding that the department describes the basins in question as “low risk.”

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

Duke Energy plans to include further scientific and engineering information with the appeal.

“We have made tremendous progress in safely and permanently closing ash basins around the Carolinas, and we will continue that work as we resolve this issue,” the company wrote in the statement.

For decades, Duke Energy had mixed coal ash from its facilities with water and stored the mixture in open ponds.

Then, in 2014, about 39,000 tons of that ash spilled from the Dan River plant in Rockingham County into the Dan River.

In response, lawmakers passed a law demanding the energy company end the use of coal ash ponds by 2030.

This latest demand from the state comes in an effort to make sure there are no future spills.

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