Emergency Action Planning



In The News

News & Events

News & Events

In The News

Woodlake Resort and Country Club ordered to lower lake because of unsafe dam
12-30-14 | Fayetteville Observer | By Steve DeVane
VASS - State officials have ordered Woodlake Resort and Country Club to lower the level of its 1,200-acre lake by three feet because a dam is unsafe. The dam safety order also requires Woodlake to submit a plan by March 16 to fix or breach the dam. The order says the 23-foot dam has several cracks and a "void of unknown size at the bottom of the principal spillway."

The dam is classified as a "high hazard" by the state because it could pose a threat to human life or property if it failed. State officials want the dam lowered because of problems with the spillway, said Brad Cole, a regional supervisor for the department's land quality section.

Woodlake officials have been cooperative, Cole said.

Cole said state officials realize Woodlake's bankruptcy could be complicating the club's efforts to deal with the dam. read more


NC Gov. McCrory picks DENR veteran to head agency
12-23-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Craig Jarvis
RALEIGH — Gov. Pat McCrory has chosen Donald van der Vaart, a longtime veteran of the state's environmental regulatory agency, to replace Secretary John Skvarla.
Skvarla is moving to head the Department of Commerce when Secretary Sharon Decker leaves at the end of the year.

Unlike Skvarla, who came in with the first wave of the McCrory administration in 2013, van der Vaart has had 20 years of experience in the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He also brings a background in the academic and private sectors, with work in energy, environment and regulatory issues.

The state chapter of the Sierra Club said it has concerns about van der Vaart's support for oil, gas and coal industries, regulation and his ability to work with diverse interests.

"Today's appointment of Don van der Vaart to the position of secretary of DENR is a missed opportunity by the governor to address the concerns raised by the public about the job the agency has done the past two years," said state director Molly Diggins." This appointment could well generate even more concerns and controversy about the McCrory administration's policies over the next two years." read more


A look at large coal ash spills in the US
12-20-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Associated Press 
The Obama administration on Friday set the first national standards for waste generated from coal burned for electricity, called coal ash, treating it more like household garbage rather than a hazardous material. The Obama announcement ended a six-year effort that began after a massive spill of the ash that contains toxins at a Tennessee power plant in 2008. Since then, the EPA has documented coal ash waste sites tainting hundreds of waterways and underground aquifers in numerous states with heavy metals and other toxic contaminants.

Here is a look at three of the largest coal ash spills in the U.S.

DEC. 22, 2008 — A containment dike bursts at a coal-fired power plant in Kingston, Tennessee, releasing more than 5 million cubic yards of toxin-laden coal ash from a storage pond. The sludge flowed into the Emory and Clinch rivers and destroyed homes in a nearby waterfront community.
The huge spill also drew national attention to coal ash and its toxic contaminants.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is spending $1.2 billion on cleanup and restoration of the area, with work expected to be completed in spring 2015. About 500,000 cubic yards of ash will be left at the bottom of the rivers because it was determined that dredging them would stir up contaminants. TVA has agreed to monitor the site for 30 years at a cost of about $10 million.

OCT. 31, 2011 — Tons of coal ash and debris were swept into Lake Michigan after a cliff gave way on the grounds of a We Energies coal-fired power plant near Milwaukee.

The collapse created a mudslide that sent a pickup truck and other equipment tumbling into Lake Michigan, swept several construction trailers toward the beach and left a swath of soil, ash and debris as large as a football field. There were no injuries or power disruptions.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated that about 2,500 cubic yards of ash reached the water. The spill happened well away from the drinking water intakes for nearby communities.

FEB. 2, 2014 — An estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash spewed into the Dan River after a drainage pipe running below a waste dump collapsed at a Duke Energy plant in Eden, North Carolina. The toxic sludge turned the river gray for more than 70 miles.

By July, Duke had dredged up about 2,500 tons of ash and contaminated sediment that settled against a dam in Danville, Virginia. Another 500 tons had been recovered from other pockets in the river and settling tanks at two municipal water treatment plants in Virginia. read more


EPA coal ash standards a setback for environmental groups
12-20-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Dylan Lovan, Travis Loller and Dina Cappiello, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Six years ago, there was a massive spill of coal ash sludge in Tennessee. Three years later, tons of coal ash swept into Lake Michigan. Last February, there was another spill and gray sludge spewed into the Dan River in North Carolina.

With each disaster, environmentalists sounded alarms and called for the byproduct of burning coal to be treated as hazardous waste. On Friday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the first standards for the coal-burning waste, but they were hardly what environmental groups were hoping for.

The EPA ruled that the ash can be treated like regular garbage, meaning regulating the stuff will be left up to states and watchful citizens.

"We had to go to court to force EPA to issue this first-ever coal ash rule, and unfortunately, we will be back in court to force coal plants to clean up their ash dumps and start disposing of their toxic waste safely," said EarthJustice attorney Lisa Evans.

Added Scott Slesinger of the Natural Resources Defense Council: "Unlike the majority of environmental standards — which are backstopped by federal enforcement — this rule all but leaves people who live near coal ash dumps to fend for themselves." read more


EPA won't regulate coal ash as hazardous waste
12-19-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Bruce Henderson
The first federal rules on coal ash from power plants, released Friday, set the bar generally lower than North Carolina did in responding to Duke Energy's February spill into the Dan River.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it will regulate coal ash as solid waste, such as municipal garbage, instead of as a hazardous waste. Ash contains elements that can be toxic in water.
That decision leaves it to utilities to comply with the new federal rule, without federal enforcement. States can adopt similar standards if they choose, but enforcement is otherwise left to citizens by filing lawsuits.

"It's good that EPA is setting the first national standards for groundwater monitoring and cleanups," said Eric Schaeffer, a former EPA enforcement chief now at the Environmental Integrity Project. "But we're concerned that it relies too much on industry self-policing."

Industry groups praised the federal decision, saying the designation as non-hazardous would continue to make ash available for reuse in products such as concrete. Environmental advocates said EPA missed a chance to rein in a waste that's known to contaminate water.

The federal rule requires groundwater monitoring and says contaminating ash ponds have to be closed. It sets design, siting and inspection standards for ash ponds or landfills, including protective liners for new ones.

North Carolina's law, which took effect in September, bans new ash ponds and closes existing ones over 15 years. It expands groundwater monitoring, already underway, that has found contamination at each of Duke's 14 North Carolina power plants.

Unlike the EPA rule, the state doesn't allow inactive ash ponds to be capped without further study of their environmental impacts.

Industry practices and some state standards already eclipse the EPA in some ways, said Frank Holleman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has filed citizen lawsuits against Duke.

"This is not the industry standard, but the industry minimum," Holleman said of the federal rule.
read more


Ash-pond repair raises concerns for Lake Norman
12-12-14 | Charlotte Observer | By Bruce Henderson
Repairs to an ash pond pipe at Duke Energy's Marshall power plant have raised concerns that contaminants could be released into Lake Norman.

State regulators this week said Duke could release water from the Marshall pond to patch a quarter-inch hole and a 5-inch hairline crack in the corrugated metal pipe. The 140-acre ash pond is the state's largest.

The state ordered Duke to test the released water for potentially toxic elements found in ash. Those elements can't exceed limits set out in a state discharge permit that lets Duke routinely drain excess water from the pond into Lake Norman.

Rick Gaskins, executive director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, says the permit has holes in it. It doesn't set specific limits for some elements found in ash, including arsenic and mercury. Gaskins says the more-than-normal volume of water released for the pipe repair could pose added risks. read more


NC coal ash commission hires executive director
12-11-14 | Charlotte Observer | By Bruce Henderson
The state's new Coal Ash Management Commission has hired its first two staff members, including an executive director.

Director Natalie Birdwell previously worked as special assistant for natural resources at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She oversaw the state zoo, aquariums, marine fisheries, parks and recreation and the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Lisa Schneider, a Raleigh attorney who practices corporate law, will serve under an annual contract as the commission's legal counsel. Schneider earlier worked in the environmental division of the state attorney general's office. read more


Coal ash emergency plans arrive ahead of schedule
12-5-14 | WRAL-TV | By Tyler Dukes
Raleigh, N.C. — After years of refusing to tell state regulators how failed dams could impact areas downstream of coal ash ponds, Duke Energy has supplied most of the information months ahead of a 2015 legislative deadline.

In a letter from Duke last week, the company said it planned to submit additional details on the dams' emergency action plans, or EAPs, requested by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources no later than Dec. 22.

Duke and other owners of intermediate- and high-hazard dams are now required to submit EAPs as part of the state legislature's 2014 coal ash legislation. The measure passed in the wake of a ruptured pipe that dumped 40,000 tons of coal ash from one of Duke's retaining ponds into the Dan River in Rockingham County in February.

Duke operates 49 intermediate- and high-hazard dams at 15 retired and operational energy plants, including 13 plants that store coal ash.

Inundation maps for coal ash dams now on file

A major part of emergency action plans are inundation maps, which detail how dam breaches would affect areas downstream. For more than three years, WRAL News reported in April, Duke used a loophole in state law to avoid filing those maps with the state.

"An EAP without a valid and up-to-date inundation map is pretty much no good," Bridget Munger, a DENR spokeswoman, told WRAL News last spring.

But under the coal ash law, Duke has until March 1 to submit complete EAPs, including inundation maps, to DENR and the state Department of Public Safety.

Munger said this week that state regulators received EAPs and inundation maps for all of Duke's coal ash sites, although not all are "satisfactory." For 32 of the 49, DENR dam safety engineers have requested revisions and additional information ranging from more legible map notations to proof drawings were completed by professional engineers. read more


State Improves Dam Response Effort
11-27-14 | North Carolina News Network | By Bruce Ferrell
RALEIGH -- Two state agencies have created a web-based tool that enables people to submit and update emergency plans for high and intermediate hazard dams.

The web-based planning application and template enables dam owners to more easily meet a key requirement of the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014. The law requires that people submit by March 1, 2015 emergency action plans for high and intermediate hazard dams to the state departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Public Safety. The law was passed in September.

"This tool will enhance public safety across the state," said Frank L. Perry, secretary of the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

The web-based tool will create an affordable, secure, statewide repository for emergency action plans that can be accessed at any time by local and state emergency management personnel and dam safety engineers in the event of a dam leak or failure. An emergency action plan for a dam includes information that identifies emergency procedures if a dam leaks or fails and downstream hazard maps to help local emergency officials develop evacuation plans if they are necessary.

Perry said the state Division of Emergency Management actually began work on the development tool several years ago after a county emergency manager requested the state's help in developing a better, more efficient emergency action plan for dams statewide. The agency partnered with DENR to develop a new, web-based tool that would be based on a similar template plan developed earlier for licensed care facilities.

DENR and DPS officials developed the web-based applicationthat captures the necessary safety requirements and digitally generates an emergency action plan that complies with the state law, based on the individual dam owner's needs. Dam owners can use direct internet portal access to create their plans and retain them on file with the appropriate local and state authorities. As a digital application, the tool also will allow dam owners to easily update their plans annually as required by the new law. read more


Coal ash commission meets as McCrory sues
11-15-14 | Associated Press | By Michael Biesecker
CHAPEL HILL – A new state commission overseeing the cleanup of Duke Energy's coal ash dumps in North Carolina was sworn in Friday as Gov. Pat McCrory sued to challenge the panel's formation.

The new nine-member Coal Ash Management Commission was created by a law passed in response to the massive Feb. 2 spill at a Duke dump in Eden, which coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge. The ash that remains after coal is burned to generate electricity contains numerous toxic heavy metals, including lead, arsenic and mercury.

"My goal for this commission is to establish the most effective and most efficient management of coal ash in America," said Michael Jacobs, the chairman of the new board. "This commission will focus on science, safety and economics, not politics."

But before the commission even began its work, the governor sued his fellow Republican leaders at the state legislature, claiming its creation violated the North Carolina Constitution by infringing on his executive authority. The legislature appoints six of the panel's members, leaving the governor the remaining three.

Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis have said it's essential for the commission to be independent. McCrory worked at Duke for 29 years prior to becoming governor. Environmental groups have criticized decisions by his administration before and after the Dan River spill that they contend improperly favored the company.

Some of those state regulatory decisions are now the subject of a federal criminal investigation. The governor has repeatedly denied his former employer has received any special treatment.
Duke has 32 active and retired ash basins at 14 sites across the state, containing more than 100 million tons of ash.

Speaking before the commission on Friday, a high-ranking Duke official compared coal ash to coffee grounds.

"Think of it as making coffee tomorrow morning," said Richard Baker, Duke's director of water and natural resources. "If you don't get any water to that coffee, you simply don't have any coffee to drink afterward. We're just cutting off the source of water to that material."

Jacobs, the founder of a private-equity fund, was appointed by McCrory to lead the commission. Jacobs said the board's job will be to balance the safety of the state's citizens and environment against the massive cost of the cleanup. read more


McCrory sues legislature over 'unconstitutional' commissions
11-13-14 | WRAL-TV | By Mark Binker
Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory and two of his predecessors have sued the General Assembly to stop a newly created Coal Ash Management Commission and others like it from taking over executive branch functions. 

The lawsuit, filed in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday, says that lawmakers usurped McCrory's authority by creating commissions to carry out functions normally overseen by state agencies directed by the governor. 

"These commissions make government less accountable to the will of the people. Citizens and voters must be able to distinguish which branch of government is responsible for making the laws and which branch is responsible for carrying out the laws and operating state government," McCrory said in a news release. 

The move puts the Coal Ash Management Commission squarely in the spotlight as it prepares to meet for the first time Friday morning.

Lawmakers created the panel to oversee the cleanup and regulation of coal ash, material left over after coal is burned for fuel. A coal ash spill that dumped millions of gallons of toxin-laced water into the Dan River in February brought the issue to the public's attention. Legislators said that an independent body was needed because, among other reasons, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was under federal investigation related to its oversight of ash ponds. 

But McCrory said the move took away his constitutional authority to carry out the laws of the state. He is joined in the suit by former Govs. Jim Martin, a Republican, and Jim Hunt, a Democrat. The suit names as defendants legislative leaders as well as the members of the coal ash commission. McCrory asks that the members appointed by the legislature be removed from their seat and that the court declare legislative appointments to executive branch commissions unconstitutional. read more


Duke Energy to ship Riverbend coal ash to NC clay mines
11-13-14 | Charlotte Observer | By Bruce Henderson
Duke Energy will ship a million tons of coal ash from its Riverbend power plant west of Charlotte to open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties, the company said Thursday.

Plans filed with environmental regulators describe plans for four power plants where legislators have said ash must be excavated by 2019: Riverbend; Dan River in Eden, scene of a February ash spill; Asheville; and Sutton in Wilmington.

The plans were filed to meet a Nov. 15 deadline Gov. Pat McCrory set in an August executive order.

"All this is intended to get us moving by the 2029 deadline" set by legislators to close all 32 ash ponds across the state, said Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan.

Duke said it will move 5.1 million tons of ash, about 30 percent of the total stored at the four plants, in an initial phase of excavation. The work will be done within 12 to 18 months of receiving state permits, it said.

Like the other plants, Riverbend's ash is poised near a water supply – Mountain Island Lake, Charlotte's main water supply. That and the relatively small scale of the ash stored made the four plants top priorities for excavation.

Excavation of the two ash ponds at Riverbend could begin in March, Duke said. read more


NC coal ash commission begins big job crafting clean-up regulations
11-12-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Craig Jarvis
North Carolina is about to start building a comprehensive regulatory scheme leading to the cleaning up and safe storage of coal ash.

How effective that turns out to be depends upon a new commission that meets for the first time Friday. Its members come from a variety of backgrounds that touch on the issue. But some environmentalists are concerned that it tilts toward industry representatives and doesn't include advocates or people who live near the coal-fired plants.

The Coal Ash Management Commission, whose nine members are appointed by the governor and legislature, is charged with prioritizing – based on risk of pollution – the closing of 32 ponds where ash is stored at Duke Energy's 14 coal-fired plants near rivers.

The coal residue in high- or intermediate-risk basins will have to be removed, but the low-risk ponds could be capped without being moved – a far cheaper but potentially hazardous option. That will be the tension between Duke Energy and state environmental regulators and advocates, with the coal commission in the middle.

The commission has its work cut out for it in terms of meeting deadlines and dealing with interagency tensions over who has the authority to make final decisions. read more


Feds override NC on draining coal ash dumps
10-3-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Michael Biesecker, Associated Press
RALEIGH, N.C. —The Southern Environmental Law Center released documents Friday showing that the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Aug. 28 quietly signed off on Duke's plan to start emptying liquids from all of its 33 coal ash dumps across the state through existing drain pipes at the facilities.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency responded with a lengthy memo on Sept. 16, expressing concern that Duke's draining would likely violate its water quality permit. Duke's state wastewater discharge permits require the company to test the water discharged from its pipes for levels of toxic materials twice a year.

"The applicable permits only require monitoring for a limited number of pollutants once every six months," wrote Mark J. Nuhfer, an EPA official at the agency's regional headquarters in Atlanta. "As a result, Duke Energy could draw the ponds down completely without taking a single sample to assess effluent quality, permit compliance, or water-quality impact."

The EPA agrees with the state's goal of draining the dumps, but Nuhfer said the company should be required to provide more information about the potential environmental impacts of releasing such large amounts of wastewater in a short period of time.

Following the EPA's letter, state regulators sent a new letter to Duke on Sept. 19, changing its earlier position that the draining was allowed.

Frank Holleman, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the state's Aug. 28 letter would have given Duke free rein to dump far larger amounts of contaminated water without public scrutiny.

"Thankfully, EPA has stopped (the state) from disregarding its own permits and from failing to protect North Carolina's rivers and clean water," Holleman said. "This shows once again that North Carolina's citizens cannot count on DENR to protect our communities and clean water."

In a letter to the state earlier this week, Duke reiterated that the new law requires it to remove its ash from four high hazard sites by the end of 2019. read more


Few lessons taken from ash spills
9-28-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Bruce Henderson
With its creation last week of a $10 million fund for Carolinas waterways, Duke Energy followed the pattern set by other utilities in atoning for high-profile coal ash spills.
Duke's splash into the Dan River was the nation's third large ash spill in less than a decade. Like the Tennessee Valley Authority and Pennsylvania's PPL, Duke repeated apologies, made community gifts and pledged to close its ash basins.
Why, as evidence grew that ash ponds are problematic, did it seem to take public embarrassment to prod the largest U.S. utility to act?
Duke says the spill only accelerated pond closings that began years ago, as it retired coal-burning power plants and shifted to natural gas. Half of Duke's Carolinas coal fleet has shut down in the past five years.

The company's approach "gets us out of the business of having to store ash in wet ponds and move to not only all-dry handling systems but all-dry storage systems," said John Elnitsky, Duke's ash strategy chief. "It's really a question of what is the right way to get there and what do those closure solutions look like."

Industry critics say ash ponds, in which particles sluiced out of power plants settle to the bottom, were the cheapest options for utilities willing to bear their risks. Closing them without excavating ash near waterways, which a new North Carolina law may allow, doesn't end those risks, advocates say.
"Wet disposal of coal ash is a recipe for disaster" because of its tendency to soak into groundwater or leach from dikes, said Jennifer Duggan, managing attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project.
The group's review of groundwater data at 30 power plants found contamination above federal drinking water standards at 82 percent of test wells over the past four years. Contamination has been detected around ash ponds at all 14 of Duke's coal plants in North Carolina.

The Environmental Protection Agency has identified proven or potential environmental damage from ash at 133 sites, including nine in North Carolina, and is evaluating 73 more sites.

Duke's ash policies are typical across the power industry, said Lisa Evans, an attorney for the national law firm Earthjustice.

Evans, who has probed ash issues for years, said she is hard-pressed to think of a utility that took substantial action before being sued or experiencing a spill.

"Knowing what I know about the potential for great harm to public health and the environment, why wouldn't their attorneys have prompted them to do the right thing and get away from that problem?" Evans said. "I see this again and again."read more


Duke Energy creates $10 million fund for Carolinas waterways
9-24-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Bruce Henderson
In a counter to its February coal ash spill into the Dan River, Duke Energy announced a $10 million fund Wednesday for Carolinas waterways.

The money will be used to improve water quality, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and expand public access. It may also buff a corporate image battered by the "profound event," as CEO Lynn Good called the nation's third-largest ash spill.

The fund reserves $1.5 million for projects in the Dan River basin. Duke will separately grant $500,000 to improve a park in Danville, Va., which bore the brunt of the spill.

Projects in the Carolinas and three states downstream of Duke power plants – in Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee – will be eligible for grants. Duke announced eight initial grants totaling $765,000.

The North Carolina Community Foundation, a Raleigh agency that works with individual donors, businesses and nonprofit groups, will administer the new water fund. read more


Woodlake Owners File for Bankruptcy
9-23-14 | Southern Pines Pilot | By Tom Embrey
Woodlake Partners LLC, the owner of Woodlake Country Club, has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The filing occurred on Friday. The bankruptcy filing came two weeks after state officials received a repair plan for the Woodlake Dam. State dam safety officials have classified the dam at Woodlake Country Club's lake a "high hazard" after identifying several structural problems.

It is unclear, how, if at all, the filing will impact any work done on the dam.

Earlier this year, officials at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources submitted a "notice of deficiency" letter regarding the Woodlake Dam to representatives of Woodlake Partners and Julie Watson at Woodlake Country Club.

Woodlake Country Club is located off N.C. 690 north of Southern Pines. The 1,200-acre lake is the centerpiece of the development, which includes two golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Ellis Maples.

The lake's dam has been a problem for decades. In the late 1980s, the lake needed to be drained because of large holes in the dam that needed to be fixed to prevent its collapse.

Engineer B. Dan Marks completed and submitted a repair plan to the state. The plan was received by state officials on Sept. 5, said Bill Denton, the state's assistant dam safety engineer. He said the repair plan has not yet been reviewed, but that due to the classification of the dam, the plan likely would be reviewed sooner rather than later.

"It's kinda like triage at a hospital," Denton said. "This is one that is a high priority, but I can't give you an exact date."

Denton said he and others were aware of the bankruptcy filing. He said a situation in which a dam owner files bankruptcy soon after submitting a repair plan is "uncommon," but is of no concern to dam safety engineers.

"Basically, we have a plan, and we will review it. That's our concern, not the other stuff," Denton said. read more


Duke to start clearing coal ash from Saluda River site
9-23-14 | Anderson Independent Mail, S.C. | By Michael Eads
COLUMBIA --- Duke Energy told state regulators Tuesday that it plans to remove some of the toxic coal ash it has stored along the Saluda River. Duke officials told South Carolina's Public Service Commission at a hearing Tuesday that it plans to dig up one of the ash pits at the W.S. Lee steam plant near Williamston and remove the ash to dry storage.

"Based on the engineering work we've conducted at the site, we are opting to pursue a fully lined solution for the ash located in the inactive basin and the ash fill, while we continue evaluating the best closure method for the remaining ash," said John Elnitsky, senior vice president for Duke Energy ash basin strategy.

Duke will submit its plans for the two remaining ash basins and pile at the site to the Department of Health and Environmental Control by year's end, said company spokeswoman Erin Culbert. Disposal options include placing a lined and capped landfill at the Lee site or moving the ash to some similar facility off-site.

"This is certainly welcome news," said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, who attended the commission hearing. "It's as obvious as the nose on your face ... it's an unsafe way to store industrial waste that was dangerous for the company and the community. We hope it gets done soon because every day is dangerous with that ash there next to the river."

The criticisms intensified earlier this year after a Duke ash pit emptied into the Dan River in North Carolina and fouled a 70-mile stretch of its water and banks. The company has removed roughly 2,500 tons of ash from the river, under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The spill has also triggered an investigation of North Carolina state regulators by the U.S. Department of Justice. read more


Coal ash law goes into effect despite McCrory's objections
9-20-14 | Greensboro News-Record | By Taft Wireback
With no fanfare — and without the governor's signature — the state's new coal ash law took effect Friday. North Carolina legislators approved a bill on Aug. 20 that clamps down on Duke Energy's coal ash ponds. Under state law, the governor has 30 days to sign or veto a bill.

But Gov. Pat McCrory declined to do either, so the bill passed into law automatically Friday.
McCrory declined to sign the bill in part because he said the commission would operate without supervision once it begins regulating and enforcing the new law. The governor feels so strongly that the bill violates his power and the state constitution that he plans to ask the N.C. Supreme Court for an advisory opinion.

The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 won't change how state environmental regulators supervise the ponds, but it could speed things up because it "eliminates the need to adjudicate in court both groundwater and surface-water discharge allegations we have made against the utility," said Drew Elliot, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He said the law closes a number of long-standing loopholes that have exempted the coal ash ponds from a number of dam-safety and water-quality regulations. read more


Two coal ash dams in Lumberton 'high hazard', says state
9-13-14 | Fayetteville Observer | By Steve DeVane
LUMBERTON - State officials have classified two dams at a Duke Energy coal ash pond in Lumberton as "high hazard" because people could be killed and homes damaged if they failed.
In a separate action, four conservation groups filed federal lawsuits Wednesday against Duke over three other coal ash sites.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuits under the Clean Water Act on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, Yadkin Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance. The suits focus on issues at the Cape Fear site in Chatham County on the Cape Fear River, the Lee site in Goldsboro on the Neuse River and the Buck site in Salisbury on the Yadkin River.

Four occupied homes are near the Lumberton dams that were classified as high hazard, said Jamie Kritzer, a Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesman. He did not know how close the homes are to the dams or how many people live in them. read more


Advocates sue Duke Energy over coal ash
9-3-14 | Raleigh News & Observer | By Bruce Henderson
Environmental advocates filed more lawsuits Wednesday against Duke Energy, claiming the company's coal ash practices broke federal clean-water law and dam-safety standards at three power plants.

Groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center cited problems at the Buck power plant in Rowan County, the Cape Fear plant in Chatham County and the Lee plant in Wayne County.

The law center says the actions are aimed at forcing Duke to clean up ash ponds at the power plants that state lawsuits and legislation failed to do.

The lawsuits ask the court to make Duke stop the flow of contaminants from the three plants, remove ash from their ponds and clean up groundwater and nearby rivers and lakes. read more