Coal Ash Updates

UPDATED May 22, 2014

Recent news about the coal ash spill:

Group seeks community action on coal ash (Henderson Dispatch) -- A local environmental justice group wants to stir up grassroots support for pressuring Duke Energy to clean up coal ash along the Dan River — and into Kerr Lake. Deborah Ferruccio and Leslie James, co-founders of Environmental Justice – Pollution Prevention, set up at Perry Memorial Library on Wednesday afternoon to tell residents what they could do to help. “We’re just asking people to call their legislators, to press for Duke Energy to have the cleanup of the Dan River,” James said. “That’s what we’re pressing people in Henderson to do. They can go to the state legislature, speak to our representatives.” James said people could also write letters to the editor, attend the June 4 coal ash lobby day in Raleigh and keep informed.
 
N.C. tourism officials: Don't let coal ash fears keep you off the Dan River (Charlotte Business Journal) -- Despite a coal ash spill on the Dan River that has drawn nationwide attention to the dangers and handling of that waste product, tourism officials want potential visitors to know there are still plenty of areas where the river can be enjoyed safely. The N.C. Division of Tourism joined with local officials from Eden and Rockingham County on Tuesday to mark what should be the area's busy summer tourism season. Wit Tuttell, executive director for the agency, said many popular areas for tubing, kayaking and canoeing are upstream from the spill site, according to Time Warner Cable News.
 
McCrory plan only a start for fixing Duke ponds (Fayetteville Observer editorial) -- Lawmakers say they want to enact a plan forcing Duke Energy to clean up its coal-ash ponds and believe they have a good starting point in proposals from Gov. Pat McCrory, a longtime Duke employee who has recently been critical of his former boss. It sounds promising. But the devil, as always, is in the details, which are disturbingly familiar, says D.J. Gerken, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. The SELC cried foul earlier this year when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources offered Duke Energy a settlement over the coal-ash ponds, instead of aggressively enforcing compliance with state regulations. Aspects of McCrory's proposal bear strong resemblance to that plan, developed under the watch of McCrory's DENR secretary, John Skvarla.
 

Older news:

Duke Energy ash spill needs outside investigator, state treasurer says (Charlotte Observer) -- State treasurer Janet Cowell's office will vote Thursday to oust one Duke Energy director and has urged Duke's board to name an outside investigator of the February coal ash spill into the Dan River. Cowell, who oversees the pension plans for state and local government employees, was the latest of Duke's institutional investors to urge new blood on Duke's board. The company will hold its annual shareholders meeting Thursday in uptown Charlotte. "Although Duke Energy is being evaluated today by various federal and state government bodies, none of those organizations will be focused on ways to improve corporate governance or management practices," Cowell's office wrote Duke. "Independent internal investigations have unique aspects that can help teach companies how to better run their business."
 
Coal Ash in NC: Debate Over What Makes Sense and Cents (Public News Service) -- State officials say power bills in North Carolina could go up as much as $20 a month and the increase would have nothing to do with power usage. Instead, it would foot the bill for the $10 billion cleanup of Duke Energy's North Carolina coal ash ponds,
 
Cowell steps up pressure on Duke Energy over coal ash before shareholder meeting(WRAL-TV) -- One day before Duke Energy holds its annual shareholder meeting, North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell is adding her voice to the chorus of major investors calling for more information from the Charlotte-based utility about the February coal ash spill in the Dan River.
 
Duke Energy ash spill needs outside investigator, state treasurer says (Charlotte Observer) -- Duke Energy shareholders will gather Thursday for an annual meeting framed by investors critical of Duke’s response to a Feb. 2 coal ash spill into the Dan River. State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office said Wednesday it will vote to oust one director, and urged Duke’s board to seek an outside probe of the “corporate decisions that led to the Dan River spill.” Cowell, who oversees the $80 billion pension plan for state and local government employees, became at least the third of Duke’s institutional investors to urge new blood on its 15-member board.
 
N.C. treasurer to use state's Duke Energy shares against director (AP) -- North Carolina's public pension funds, which own a piece of Duke Energy, will use their influence to try to force Duke's board of directors to bring in new blood and improve oversight of the cleanup of a massive coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of a river with toxic sludge, state Treasurer Janet Cowell said Wednesday. Cowell will vote shares held by state pension funds against Duke Energy director Carlos Saladrigas' re-election on Thursday to force change on the board coping with the spill's aftermath, she said in a letter to the company.
 
NC treasurer says Dan River spill calls for changes on Duke Energy board (Charlotte Business Journal) -- N.C. State Treasurer Janet Cowell says the state, as a Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) shareholder, will vote against the re-election of a Duke board member in response to the Dan River coal ash spill.
 
New coal ash ads hit airwaves as Duke shareholders arrive (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A flurry of TV, radio and web spots about coal ash are hitting North Carolina’s airwaves this week in advance of Duke Energy’s shareholders meeting in Charlotte on Thursday. Representatives of religious, labor and social justice groups will also be holding a news conference in Charlotte on Thursday aimed at the shareholders. And in another development Wednesday, state Treasurer Janet Cowell said she would vote against an incumbent Duke board member, Carlos Saladrigas, in hopes of replacing him with someone with experience in environmental cleanup.
 
CEO Lynn Good: Duke 'must do better' after spill (Greensboro News & Record) -- As Duke Energy readies its cleanup operation, CEO Lynn Good addressed the Dan River coal ash spill in the company’s 2013 Sustainability Report, saying the utility “must do a better job of safely managing our coal ash ponds.” The report addressed the Charlotte-based company’s year in review, looking back at accomplishments — and challenges. The Dan River spill is shaping up to be the company’s biggest challenge this year — and possibly for years to come. The Feb. 2 incident at the retired Dan River Steam Station in Eden saw thousands of tons of coal ash released into a waterway that’s a habitat for wildlife and a destination for tourists. “We worked around the clock to permanently stop the leak,” Good said in the letter.
 
Duke Energy to face investors at annual meeting (TWCN-TV) -- Duke Energy is trying to clean up its image for investors this week ahead of the annual shareholders' meeting.
 
Letter from WNC pastors urges Duke to stop coal pollution (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- More than 60 Western North Carolina pastors have signed a letter asking Duke Energy to decommission its Asheville power plant and clean up coal ash dumps at its facilities across the state. The letter will be delivered by the Rev. Steve Runholt, pastor at Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church, to Duke officials at the company's shareholder meeting Thursday in Charlotte.
 

Older news about the spill:

New Coal Ash Proposal, Same As The Old One? (WFAE-FM) -- Two weeks ago, Gov. Pat McCrory released a plan, billed as a solution for the coal ash ponds leaking polluted water into rivers and lakes around North Carolina. But environmental groups are crying foul—because the governor’s proposal resembles a previous, widely-criticized agreement between the administration and Duke Energy, which was thrown out after a coal ash pond collapsed into the Dan River in February.
 
Durham commissioners approve resolution pushing for coal ash legislation (WNCN-TV) -- The Durham County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Monday to request legislation in reaction to the massive coal ash spill at Duke Energy's Dan River Steam Station. Board Chair Michael Page said they plan to write a letter to Governor Pat McCrory and to the NC Department of Environmental Resources requesting they pay "close attention to the environment" and "protect the people of North Carolina."
 
Duke Energy critics speak out during public hearing (WTVD-TV) -- Environmentalists are accusing Duke Energy of dragging its feet when it comes to transitioning to use cleaner fuel. State law requires Duke Energy to rely more on renewable energy sources in the near future. Environmentalists said, instead of moving in that direction, Duke is polluting the environment and passing the costs off to consumers. "Outrage, outrage, outrage. Everyone is talking about this," said Nick Wood, with NC WARN. "You mention the name Duke Energy, they mention, 'Why should we have to pay for this?'" It started with about a dozen or so people with NC WARN gathering outside the Dobbs Building before a State Utilities Commission public hearing on Duke's long-term integrated resource plan.
 
Environmental group releases video, urges Duke to clean up (Winston-Salem Journal) The video, released by Appalachian Voices, comes two days ahead of Duke Energy’s shareholder meeting in Charlotte.
 
Coal ash cleanup: Someone will pay; will it be customers? (Greenville [S.C.] News editorial) -- The cost for Duke Energy to safely dispose of the toxic byproducts of nearly 100 years of burning coal along waterways in North Carolina could cost upwards of $10 billion, the company says. The figure, cited by a company executive this week, raises questions in South Carolina — particularly along the Saluda River where a Duke coal plant in Anderson County has been cited for violations and amid concerns that a disaster like one that happened recently along the Dan River in North Carolina could happen here. Among the questions: Is the cost real or inflated? What does it mean for how Duke's "coal ash" ponds in South Carolina will be put to rest? And who will ultimately pay for it: shareholders or customers?

 

Older news about the spill:

McCrory coal ash announcement miffs GOP lawmakers (AP) — Some North Carolina lawmakers say they were surprised and miffed by fellow Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's announcement that he's seeking legislation to beef up government oversight of coal ash dumps.
 
Trying to connect some political dots (Hendersonville Times-News column) -- Duke Energy contributed $1.1 million to state GOP legislators.- A massive coal ash spill polluted 70 miles of the Dan River.- Duke is fined a miniscule $99,000 for pollution infractions.- Sen. Tom Apodaca is quoted as saying the coal ash pond issue has bothered him for a long time.- The 2013 General Assembly passed a law containing a small section (the infamous 330-word insert) relieving Duke Energy of any responsibility for the pollution cleanup. Sen. Apodaca voted for this bill.- Sen. Apodaca called for legislation requiring Duke to clean up the coal ash ponds ... after voting to let it off the hook.- Duke Energy profits are up 58 percent, but customers should pay for the cleanup.
Coal ash buried across region (Charlotte Observer) -- Coal ash is scattered across Charlotte in places where ground needed leveling or gullies needed filling. Duke once sold ash to dispose of its waste – and a liability.
 
Q&A with Rick Dove: Pollution impacting eastern NC health, economy (Salisbury Post) -- Environmental advocate Rick Dove will speak Tuesday, April 29, at Catawba College on “North Carolina’s Environment in the Eye of the Perfect Storm.” The 7 p.m. presentation, which is sponsored by the Center for the Environment, will be held in Tom Smith Auditorium in Ketner Hall. Dove is a former Neuse Riverkeeper and Southeastern Representative for the Waterkeeper Alliance. He is a photo and video journalist who specializes in aerial and ground photography that documents sources of pollution.
 
Coal ash fix worries environmentalists (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- The state’s chief environmental regulator may well be correct that a one-size-fits-all approach to coal ash cleanup may not work. John Skvarla, who heads the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, recently joined Gov. Pat McCrory to outline a proposal to clean up Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash pits in the aftermath of the massive spill in the Dan River. “The engineering and science is going to be a little more complicated than digging them all up and moving them to landfills,” Skvarla said. The proposal from McCrory would give the department that Skvarla heads authority over how the cleanup proceeds. It would establish priorities and timeframes and let Duke propose how each should be closed. That has environmental groups worried, especially because the governor has yet to produce specific legislation. What McCrory and Skvarla are saying now is that the approach will be data-driven, that criteria will be set up to help determine how each ash pond is addressed. Part of that criteria, no doubt, will be the proximity of the ash ponds to rivers, drinking water supplies and drinking water wells.
 
Duke Energy needs to clean ash ponds (New Bern Sun Journal editorial) -- Duke Energy’s public relations team is working overtime in an effort to turn the tide of public opinion following a major spill from one of its coal-ash ponds and news that lobbyists sneaked a provision into regulatory legislation that appears to exempt the company from cleaning out its dormant ash ponds. Duke Energy has the opportunity to build goodwill by agreeing to clean out the ash ponds without placing the burden on utility customers. The problem is not isolated to one plant. After the Dan River spill, state regulators found that a coal-ash dam at the Chatham County plant was cracked. Ash ponds in several locations are leaking.
 
McCrory irks legislators in coal ash pond announcement (Greensboro News & Record) -- The governor's plan for coal ash ponds caught them off guard, North Carolina lawmakers say.
 
Proposed coal ash law could undermine N.C. court ruling on groundwater leaks(Charlotte Business Journal) -- N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed legislation to tighten coal ash regulation could blunt or even gut a recent court order that requires Duke Energy to immediately stop groundwater contamination from its ash ponds. The law sets out a series of studies, reports, deadlines and rulings back and forth between utilities and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources when addressing known groundwater leaks from coal ash storage. That could at least cause new litigation over a ruling that ordered Duke to take immediate action to halt leaks from ash ponds into groundwater. And it could ultimately negate the order.
 
NC State study: Dan River water safe for farm use (AP) — Farmers along the Dan River can use surface water for crops and livestock because toxic sludge from a massive coal ash spill has settled to the bottom, a report by university researchers found.
 
Va. Dept. of Environment Quality weighs in on possible coal ash in Kerr Lake(TWCN-TV) -- There is conflicting information emerging from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources following a Time Warner Cable News report on the confirmed presence of coal ash in Kerr lake.
 
Officials watching for coal ash in Kerr Lake (Henderson Dispatch) -- A recent statement from the state’s environmental regulatory agency has fueled concerns about coal ash in Kerr Lake. But Michael Womack, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers located at John H. Kerr Reservoir, says the results from sediment samples taken from Kerr Lake are below screening levels concerning human health. “The sample results for sediment collected are coming back below screening levels concerning human health,” Womack said on Friday. He is operations project manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. On Thursday, the director of Water Resources at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources told Time Warner Cable News that trace amounts of coal ash were found at Kerr Lake. “Basically, my understanding is that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took sediment sampling or sampling from the river all the way along to the headwaters of Kerr Lake,” Thomas Reeder said in the published report. “Anyone that’s talked to me about it, I’ve told them we’ve found trace amounts of coal ash all the way to Kerr Lake.”

Older news...

EPA to discuss river clean up (GoDanRiver.com) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies will hold an open houseMonday in Danville for residents to discuss upcoming dredge work to clean up coal ash from near the Schoolfield Dam. The event will take place 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the Danville Community Market building at 629 Craghead St. Representatives from the EPA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Health, city of Danville, U.S. Coast Guard and other participating agencies will attend.
 
Monday meeting in Va. to focus on coal ash spill (AP) -- State and federal officials are heading to Danville next week to discuss the dredging of coal ash from the Dan River. The Environmental Protection Agency and its state counterpart, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and public health officials will attend the open house on Monday. The focus will be coal ash that collected near the Schoolfield Dam. The toxic sludge is the result of a spill upriver in North Carolina at an impoundment pond owned by Duke Energy in early February.
 
State Sides With Duke in Coal-Ash Cleanup (Public News Service) -- It took about two months for more than 39,000 tons of coal ash to leak into the Dan River from Duke Energy's retired coal-fired power plant, but cleanup is expected to take much longer than that. The hold-up goes beyond the large task ahead, and extends to the state's courtrooms. This week North Carolina regulators joined Duke Energy in appealing a judge's ruling on cleaning up groundwater pollution leaching from the company's 37 coal ash ponds across the state. Dean Naujoks, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, says the judge made it clear that Duke should clean up all the ponds.
 
For environmental regulators, mission long a moving target (WRAL-TV) -- When a new administration took over the Department of Environment and Natural Resources under Gov. Pat McCrory in 2013, environmental advocates raised an alarm over a change in the agency's mission statement. While recognizing a primary mission of protecting the environment, it also adopted a three-part philosophy that included a commitment to customer service over operating as a "bureaucratic obstacle of resistance." Some saw that as code for relaxed enforcement actions against polluters.
 
Coal ash suspected in lake (Henderson Dispatch) -- Water sample tests done by the Kerr Lake Regional Water System have not indicated the presence of coal ash, but one Vance County resident says he spotted the grayish substance while fishing in Kerr Lake last week. “I have been fishing in this lake for over 40 years and there was no question in my mind it was coal ash,” said John Soles, who lives in the Nutbush community. Soles said he took his boat in the Ivy Hill area of Kerr Lake, near Clarksville, Va. “I was shocked,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe what it was when I first saw it. There is no question in my mind it is here, I just don’t know how much.”
 
Area elected officials tour Wilmington Duke Energy plants (Wilmington Star-News) -- In the midst of ongoing controversy over its massive coal ash spill, Duke Energy is inviting local lawmakers to tour its Wilmington plants, a move officials with the utility said isn't a public relations ploy. "The city has understandably been curious about events related to the Dan River and how that impacts our other plants. We did reach out to them given that they have those questions," said Jeff Brooks, a spokesman for Duke Energy. "It's normal to bring out a local leader or extend that invitation."
 
WNCN investigation gets answer on state's coal ash appeal (WNCN-TV) -- The state of North Carolina has joined Duke Energy in appealing a judge's order for the utility to take immediate action to eliminate sources of groundwater contamination at its coal ash ponds. The N.C. Environmental Management Commission filed the appeal late Monday afternoon, just four days after Duke Energy said it cannot immediately clean up the pits as required by Superior Court Judge Paul C. Ridgeway's March 6 order. Duke argued that it needed more time or else the cleanup "will impose significant material costs on Duke Energy and its customers as well as potentially affect its ability to generate power."(Click Here to read the commission's appeal; Click Here to read Duke Energy's appeal) But the state’s decision to appeal left many scratching their heads. “Why would the state of North Carolina object to having strong authority to clean up illegal pollution?” asked attorney Frank Holleman with the Southern Environmental Law Center. WNCN Investigates asked DENR, the district attorney’s office, and all the members of the Environmental Management Commission why appeal? No one gave us answer.
 
Thomasville reports spill in South Hamby Creek (AP) -- The City of Thomasville says 12,500 gallons of untreated wastewater have spilled into South Hamby Creek in the Yadkin and Pee Dee River Basin.

 

Previous news...

Moral Monday crowd in Eden addresses coal ash (Greensboro News & Record) -- The town hall meeting in Eden draws concerned people from across the state.
 
Cleaning Coal Ash In Danville, VA (WUNC-FM) -- Leaders of the Moral Mondaymovement focused on coal ash during a town hall meeting in Eden. The 'MoralMonday' event consisted of two panels of people to discuss the health, environmental and economic impacts of the coal ash spill that originated in Eden, near the Virginia border almost two months ago. As much as 39,000 tons of potentially toxic ash poured into the Dan River when a metal pipe running through a Duke Energy coal ash dump, ruptured. The ash has been found as far as 70 miles downstream. Some of the ash at the spill site in Eden has been removed by the utility.
 
EPA looked askance at DENR's proposed coal ash settlement with Duke (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thought North Carolina regulators were too lenient when they came up with a settlement with Duke Energy over coal ash plants. The EPA's questioning of the proposed settlement in 2013 surfaced in thousands of emails and other records that the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently made public.
 
Search NC's coal ash records (WRAL-TV) -- Around 5 p.m. Friday, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources produced about 900 files and documents responding to public records requests on coal ash. The response consists of about 13,000 pages total. You can browse the full text of most of the documents on WRAL.com. If you want to search for terms like "Dan River," "coal ash" or other keywords, enter them in the search box and hit "Enter." Double-click on a file to open it in a new window (you may need to disable your pop-up blocker).
 
Equipment arrives to clean Dan River (Roanoke Times) -- Equipment is beginning to arrive in Danville for cleaning coal ash out of the Dan River and from concrete tanks at the water treatment plant. During a news conference Monday, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said equipment would begin to be set up at Abreu-Grogan Park this week that will vacuum-dredge about 2,500 tons of coal ash deposited near the upstream side of the Schoolfield Dam. http://imagec18.247realmedia.com/RealMedia/ads/Creatives/default/empty.gifThe coal ash covers an area of about 26,000 square feet and is up to a foot thick, Brooks said.
 
Duke Energy Waits for NC to Approve Its Coal Ash Plan (WFDD-FM) -- Duke Energy says it's ready to manage and dismantle its coal ash basins. Duke Energy says it has a plan to deal with the Dan River coal ash spill. Last week, executives announced they will create an internal strategic task force to oversee an engineering review of the company's sites. It simply needs North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory to give it the green light. Dave Scanzoni, a Duke Energy spokesman, says the corporation has also hired a team of outside engineers to determine the condition of Duke Energy’s 33 ash basins in North Carolina.
 

 

Older news about the spill:

Duke shareholders want probe of coal ash spill (AP) — Duke Energy shareholders called on the company's board on Thursday to launch an independent investigation into issues surrounding a massive coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of a North Carolina river in toxic sludge.
 
Duke Energy denies stormwater violations (WRAL-TV) -- Duke Energy is asking the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to rescind six notices of violation over stormwater discharges.
 
Duke Energy asks state to rescind stormwater citations (Greensboro News & Record) -- Duke Energy urged state officials this afternoon to rescind their previous citations against the company for illegally releasing polluted stormwater at Dan River Steam Station and five other power plants.
 
(AP) -- Photos taken earlier this month show that North Carolina regulators apparently failed to notice a large crack opening in an earthen dam holding back millions of tons of Duke Energy's coal ash near the Cape Fear River.
 
Charlotte looks to Asheville on coal ash (Charlotte Observer) -- Duke wants to move about 4million tons of coal ash from the retired Riverbend Steam Station, to Charlotte Douglas. Despite expressing some skepticism about the plan, Charlotte City Council members decided Monday to study the proposal. No council members objected.

 

Older news stories...

Cooper calls on EPA to help N.C. secure coal ash lagoons (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Attorney General Roy Cooper has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help North Carolina ensure the coal ash lagoons are secured using the latest technologies. On March 21, Cooper wrote to the regional administrator for the EPA, calling on the agency to learn from the Feb. 2 Dan River spill and come up with rules to make sure it doesn’t happen again. “The resources of this state cannot be allowed to be irreparably damaged by such slow leaks and sudden breaches that can and should be prevented,” Cooper wrote, copying his letter to the governor and to DENR Secretary John Skvarla.
 
Duke Energy wants 'to regain your confidence' after coal ash spill (WRAL-TV) -- Duke Energy took out a full-page advertisement in newspapers Sundays in an effort to "regain: customer confidence following a spill from a coal ash dump last month. The company's president and chief executive officer, Lynn Good, wrote in the ad, addressed to "the People of North Carolina," that the company is taking action to "ensure the safety of our ash basins and develop a plan for long-term management, including closure.
 
Environmentalists: Charlotte airport coal ash storage is likely better solution (Charlotte Observer) -- When the Charlotte City Council hears the details Monday of a proposal to bury toxic coal ash at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, supporters of the plan will point to a similar project at Asheville’s airport that’s been underway for more than seven years. There, environmentalists say, wrapping, sealing and burying ash that was formerly stored in unlined ponds has proved to be a better solution – so far. But they say the long-range risks are unknown and that any coal ash burial program must be carefully managed to prevent leaching and contamination.
 
Danville assessing impact of ash spill (AP) -- When a massive coal ash spill was swept down the Dan River through Danville, the toxic stew smudged this proud mill city’s vision of building a new, diversified economic base. Once a thriving hub for tobacco and textiles, civic leaders now are left to repeatedly assure residents of this city of 43,000 that the water is safe to drink, forget about persuading businesses to sink roots here. The spill is already being used by competitors to lure business prospects away from Danville, a city official says. With the full environmental consequences of the spill years away, community leaders fear the city’s efforts to redefine itself have suffered immeasurably. “It’s like the town itself has been covered with coal ash, is what it really comes down to,” said Andrew Lester, executive director of the Roanoke River Basin Association, a water protection group. “Anyone who would consider moving here would have second thoughts.”
 
Duke Energy to meet with SC utilities commission (AP) — Duke Energy officials say they'll discuss coal ash issues with the agency that regulates utilities in South Carolina.
 
 
Va. city downriver from coal ash spill suffers (AP) — When a massive coal ash spill was swept down the Dan River through Danville, the toxic stew smudged this proud mill city's vision for its future.
 
Plight of farmers lost in discussion on Dan River spill (Greensboro News & Record) -- Coal ash pollution could mean some farms won’t be able to plant crops or water livestock.
 
Duke's coal ash pollution worries residents (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Groundwater contamination from Duke Energy's coal ash dumps creeping toward his neighborhood has residents like Cory Gibney worried.
 
State environmental regulator pulls cheap penalty in favor of suit (Al Jazeera America) -- North Carolina regulators said Friday that they have asked a judge to withdraw a proposed settlement that would have allowed Duke Energy to resolve multiple cases of environmental abuse by paying a $99,000 fine with no requirement that the $50 billion company clean up its pollution. The consent order that the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources scuttled had been meant to settle violations for groundwater contamination leeching from coal ash dumps near Charlotte and Asheville, N.C. Critics had called the deal too lenient.
 
Environmental groups push Duke to clean up ash ponds at rally (Lynchburg News-Advance) -- Clean-water advocates held a rally on World Water Day at Island Ford Landing along the Smith River here Saturday, where attendees enjoyed the warm weather, hot dogs and bluegrass/traditional music by a trio of talented young girls. Several environmental organizations hosted the event to call on Duke Energy to remove its coal ash ponds from waterways and provide information on how it plans to clean up last month’s coal ash spill at Duke’s old Dan River Steam Station in Eden, which dumped 39,000 tons of the toxic brew into the Dan River on Feb. 2.
 
Environmental groups and people who love the Dan River rally (Greensboro News & Record) -- The Dan River Basin Association hosted an event with other environmental organizations on Saturday in honor of World Water Day at a spot along the Smith River, which feeds into the Dan River. About 75 people showed up. The organizers urged people to enjoy the parts of the river — including those in Stokes, Henry and Patrick counties and Eden — unaffected by the spill.
 
N.C. sheriff: Riverkeepers have the right to sail on (MSNBC) -- The riverkeepers were confronted by a deputy from the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department, who checked their IDs and told them to go back downstream. … activists were following up on a discovery they’d made a few days prior, when they flew over the Cape Fear River plant and saw Duke Energy pumping water from the coal ash dumps directly into the canal. After they showed the world what they’d seen, North Carolina regulators went back to the plant and inspected the pumping operation. … After they were turned back by the sheriff’s deputy, a friend of the Waterkeeper Alliance, attorney Bob Epting, wrote to the sheriff and told him that in his reading of the law, the canal is a public waterway.
 
Duke to discuss coal ash woes in SC (The State) -- Reports linking Duke Energy to more contamination at an Upstate power plant surfaced late last week as the company and environmental groups prepared for a meeting with South Carolina regulators Monday to discuss Duke’s troubles managing toxic coal ash ponds. In 2006, researchers discovered elevated levels of arsenic in the ground at the company’s Lee steam station in Anderson County, according to a study releasedFriday by environmentalists. Some of the arsenic levels exceeded federal safety limits for residential and industrial land, according to the report obtained by the Southern Environmental Law Center from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

 

Older news from March 20 and before...

Judge rejects Duke's call to stay ruling (AP) — A judge is rejecting Duke Energy's attempt to stop a ruling that would force the company to take immediate action to clean up its coal ash dumps.
 
Judge refuses to stay order in coal ash case (WRAL-TV) -- A state Superior Court judge has refused to put his order on hold that directs Duke Energy to stop toxins leaking from coal ash ponds at its North Carolina power plants.
 
Judge refuses to delay ash pond fix for Duke Energy's appeal (Greensboro News & Record) -- A Superior Court judge ruled last week that that Duke must take steps immediately to end pollution leaching from its coal ash ponds.
 
N.C. Says Utility Pumped Millions of Gallons of Wastewater in River (New York Times) -- Duke Energy illegally pumped as much as 61 million gallons of coal-ash wastewater into a river from September to last week, North Carolina regulators said.
 
NC regulators again cite Duke Energy over coal ash (LA Times) -- North Carolina regulators cited Duke Energy on Thursday, saying the utility deliberately dumped 61 million gallons of toxic coal ash waste into a tributary of the Cape Fear River, which provides drinking water for several cities and towns in the state. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the giant utility, responsible for a massive spill from a different coal ash containment pond Feb. 2, had illegally pumped the ash from two coal ash ponds at its Cape Fear plant in Moncure, N.C., and into a canal that feeds into the Cape Fear River. Regulators said they caught Duke pumping the toxic ash March 11, one day after an environmental group took aerial photographs of what it said were pumps illegally dumping the waste.
Duke Energy cited for second coal ash spill (TWCN-TV) -- Duke Energy has been cited for a second coal ash spill that happened in Chatham County.
 
DENR acts against Duke for wastewater violations at Cape Fear plant (N.C. Political News) – State environmental regulators have cited Duke Energy for violating the conditions of a wastewater permit by pumping an estimated 61 million gallons of wastewater from two coal ash impoundments at the company’s Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant to a tributary of the Cape Fear River. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued Duke Energy a notice of violation Thursday for the permit violations after state officials discovered during a March 11 inspection that the company had been pumping wastewater from two of its coal ash ponds into an on-site canal that flows to a tributary and then the Cape Fear River. The pumps and attached hoses were set up in the ash impoundments but were not operating when state officials visited the plant last week. The pumping equipment has since been removed.
 
DENR officials examining crack in Moncure coal ash dam (WRAL-TV) -- Environmental regulators and Duke Energy officials are responding to reports of a crack in an earthen berm holding a coal ash pond back from the banks of the Cape Fear River in Moncure, officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Thursday.
 
DENR cites Duke Energy for illegally pumping coal-ash water (Raleigh News & Observer) — Duke Energy’s pumping of two coal-ash ponds for maintenance work at its Chatham County plant – discovered last week by environmentalists and regulators – illegally put 61 million gallons of wastewater into the Cape Fear River over the past several months. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Thursday notified the utility the pumping violated its wastewater permit, which subjects it to fines of up to $25,000 a day. More bad news came from the closed Cape Fear Steam Station before the day was over: Late in the afternoon, Duke Energy reported finding a crack in the earthen dam on one of the site’s coal ash lagoons. State dam safety inspectors headed to the plant Thursday evening, but said initial reports indicated it wasn’t in imminent danger of failing. Meanwhile, a Wake County Superior Court judge denied Duke Energy’s request to postpone a ruling that would require the utility to immediately get rid of the toxins leaking from its coal ash plants in North Carolina.
Duke Energy dam cracked at Chatham coal ash pond (Greensboro News & Record) -- State environmental officials are investigating a crack in the dam around a Duke Energy coal ash pond near the Cape Fear River in Chatham County. It is also the site of a former power plant state regulators cited Thursday for improperly pumping an estimated 61.8 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into the river.
 
State regulators responding to report of crack in dam at Duke facility (N.C. Political News) -- The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is responding to a report from Duke Energy that a crack has formed in an earthen dam that’s part of a coal ash impoundment at the Cape Fear Steam Electric Station in Chatham County.
Duke Energy reported the crack to DENR officials at 4 p.m. and said that no water was flowing through the earthen dam, said Steve McEvoy, state dam safety engineer with the N.C. Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources.
 
DENR hires law firm to help respond to subpoenas (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is bringing in outside legal help to assist the agency in responding to federal grand jury subpoenas in the probe involving Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds. The agency hired Alston & Bird of Charlotte specifically to help it respond to subpoenas requesting DENR documents related to coal ash ponds in North Carolina.
 
Group wants to intervene in NC coal ash case (AP) — An environmental law group says it's getting involved in a case involving a Duke Energy coal ash pit that coated 70 miles of the Dan River spill with toxic sludge because it cannot count on state regulators to do the right thing.
 
Environment groups want role in ash spill case (Charlotte Observer) -- Four environmental groups filed court papers Thursday to take part in North Carolina's enforcement case against Duke Energy over the Dan River ash spill.
 
Green groups want to join NC suit against Duke Energy (Charlotte Business Journal) -- Four regional environmental groups have filed requests to intervene in an N.C. lawsuit over coal ash pollution on the Dan River from a shuttered Duke Energy coal plant. The lawsuit was filed last summer, and so it predates the Feb. 2 incident at the Dan River Steam Station that spilled up to 39,000 tons of coal ash into the river. But that spill brought more attention to the court case.
 
NC regulators inspecting dam at coal ash dump (AP) — Regulators say they're looking into a report about a crack in a dam at a Duke Energy coal ash pit near the Cape Fear River.
 
Tough words from McCrory as DENR takes action against Duke (WTVD-TV) -- Gov. Pat McCrory weighed in Thursday evening in his roughest rebuke of Duke Energy yet. "The violations that we reported today are extremely serious," said McCrory. "We need an explanation from Duke ASAP not only to us, but to the public at large. They've waited far too long to come out of the shadows and explain what they plan to do, and explain to the public some of the issues that they're encountering at this point in time."
 
Duke Energy CEO earned $6.5 million (Charlotte Observer) -- New Duke Energy chief executive Lynn Good earned nearly $6.5 million in 2013, more than doubling her previous pay as chief financial officer. Duke’s executive pay was reported in a securities filing about its May 1 annual shareholder meeting. Good was paid $929,000 in salary and about $5.3 million in stock awards and incentive pay. Her pay last year reflects only six months as CEO, a position she took in July. As chief financial officer, Good had earned about $3.1 million in 2012. Former chief executive Jim Rogers, meanwhile, took home $9.5 million in his final year at Duke. Rogers retired as chairman in December.

 

Older news...

Va. gov expects Duke to pony up for coal ask spill (AP) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Tuesday he expects Duke Energy to fully compensate Virginia for a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River that turned collection basins at Danville's water treatment plant gray.
 
Middle school baseball field reopens after coal ash closure (TWCN-TV) -- Middle school baseball players can return to the field at South Brunswick Middle School. The school district has kept players off the ball field after finding coal ash last year during a re-grading project.
 
Federal Testimony And Chatham County Investigation (WUNC-FM) -- A federal grand jury has been impaneled to hear evidence about the relationship between Duke Energy and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). At the same time that state agency is investigating the discharge of water by the utility at a site in Chatham.
 
Coal ash pond failure could be harmful for Neuse River (Kinston Free Press) -- Toxic chemicals threatening the drinking water, gray sludge destroying marine life — it’s a reality for Dan River communities downriver from Duke Energy’s Eden coal ash spill.
 
Federal grand jury looks into Duke Energy spill (WRAL-TV) -- A federal grand jury convened Tuesday as part of a widening criminal investigation triggered by the massive Duke Energy coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge.
 
Duke Energy eyes closing more coal plants in response to Dan River spill (Triad Business Journal) -- Duke Energy's CEO suggests the company may abandon 930 megawatts worth of coal plants. That would increase plant closings in the Carolinas by 40% and raises questions about how the power would be replaced.

 

Older News...

Tweak to NC law protected Duke's coal ash pits (AP) -- Duke Energy was in a bind. North Carolina regulators had for years allowed the nation's largest power company to pollute the ground near its plants without penalty. But in early 2013, a coalition of environmental groups sued to force Duke to clean up nearly three dozen leaky coal ash dumps spread across the state. So last summer, Duke Energy turned to North Carolina lawmakers for help. Documents and interviews collected by The Associated Press show how Duke's lobbyists prodded Republican legislators to tuck a 330-word provision in a regulatory reform bill running nearly 60 single-spaced pages. Though the bill never once mentions coal ash, the change allowed Duke to avoid any costly cleanup of contaminated groundwater leaching from its unlined dumps toward rivers, lakes and the drinking wells of nearby homeowners. Passed overwhelmingly by the GOP-controlled legislature, the bill was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, a pro-business Republican who worked at Duke for 28 years.
 
Spill Stirs Watchdog to Act (Wall Street Journal) -- Beneath the surface of the Dan River, which flows along the foothills on the Virginia state line, lie the soggy remnants of a coal-ash spill that is roiling the political landscape in the state and the regulatory environment nationwide. A metal pipe running underneath a 58-year-old waste-storage pond owned by Duke Energy Corp. burst Feb. 2, pouring as much as 39,000 tons of coal ash—the byproduct of burning coal for fuel—into the adjacent river. Now, North Carolina's governor and Duke are at odds over the energy company's obligations to clean up the spill and to remove or remediate coal ash in 32 other such storage ponds in the state. A federal grand jury is scheduled to convene Tuesday in Raleigh to question Duke and state regulators about oversight of the pond as part of a criminal investigation by the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Prosecutors are reviewing records, photos and emails exchanged between Duke and state regulators about the spill. Duke said it is cooperating in the investigation.
 
Federal grand jury to examine NC coal ash spill (CBS News) -- On Tuesday a federal grand jury will begin hearing evidence on whether North Carolina regulators looked the other way when toxic coal ask leaked from Duke Energy power plants. Coal ash is the sludge left over when coal is burned to make electricity, and there was a massive leak of its last month in the Dan River. Brian Williams, a conservationist with the Dan River Basin Association, took a CBS News crew 20 miles downstream of the coal ash spill at a retired plant in Eden, N.C. "It was just giant, gray sludge pouring into the river," Williams said.
 
Federal grand jury looks into Duke Energy spill (AP) — A federal grand jury is convening as part of a widening criminal investigation triggered by the massive Duke Energy coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge.
 
Federal grand jury probe of DENR-Duke Energy relations (Charlotte Observer) -- A federal grand jury is set to meet behind closed doors from Tuesday to Thursday in the federal courthouse in Raleigh to examine documents, video and other materials with the Duke executives and 18 current and former N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources employees summoned to the hearing.
 
NC probes wastewater dumping at Duke plant (AP) — North Carolina regulators are investigating whether Duke Energy broke the law when workers pumped contaminated water from a coal ash dump near the Cape Fear River, a state official said Monday.
 
NC ash spill focus of Southside Va. meeting (AP) -- Virginia environmental officials are headed to Danville to answer questions about a coal ash spill in North Carolina. The director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, David Paylor, will be the lead state official at the meeting Tuesday. Virginia is examining any potential long-term environmental damage from the coal ash spill on the Dan River. Paylor has said Virginia will hold Duke Energy "fully accountable" for any environmental damage from the spill.
 
Winter weather delays Moral Monday, coal ash spill event (Greensboro News & Record) -- Moral Monday organizers had planned the meeting with health and environmental experts to discuss the environmental impacts of the Dan River spill.
 
Were N.C. Regulators Helping Duke Energy Avoid Big Fines (Bill Moyers) -- News broke last week that Duke Energy and its North Carolina regulator had worked together to minimize penalties the utility would have to pay for leeching chemicals into the drinking water. And this was before a coal ash spill last month dumped thousands of tons of poisonous coal slurry into the Dan River. But these emails are just the latest evidence of a problematic coziness between the politically influential utility and the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources. In this case, a coalition of environmental groups headed by the Southern Environmental Law Center sued Duke Energy for violating the Clean Water Act. The groups hoped to bring Duke before a federal court, but DENR intervened, filing its own lawsuit in a state court so that it could control the outcome. The result: Duke was fined $99,000 — negligible for a company with 2012 operating revenues of $19.6 billion.
 
Duke Admits Workers Pumped Coal-Ash Water into Cape Fear Watershed (Public News Service) -- Water continues to leak from the coal-ash ponds at Duke Energy's retired power plant on the Dan River, but the power company now admits to pumping coal-ash water from its retired Cape Fear plant into the Cape Fear River Watershed.
 
Environmentalists raise objections to Duke pumping at Moncure coal ash pond(WRAL-TV) -- Duke Energy officials say the pumping activity captured by Waterkeeper Alliance was due to maintenance work and allowed under their state permits. State officials say they are reviewing the incident.
 
Duke Energy's coal ash ponds in Chatham County under scrutiny (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State environmental regulators are investigating why Duke Energy was pumping wastewater from two coal ash ponds at its retired Cape Fear plant in Chatham County last week.
 
Groups call on McCrory to ‘come clean’ about ties to Duke Energy (Carolina Public Press) -- Conservation and progressive advocacy groups gathered Thursday on the shores of Lake Julian to call on Gov. Pat McCory to reveal his level of financial investment into Duke Energy and to lead an effort to clean up 37 coal ash sites across the state.
 
Coal ash ponds in Chatham County under scrutiny (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State environmental regulators are investigating whether Duke Energy has been pumping toxic coal-ash wastewater into the Cape Fear River in Chatham County. Officials with the Charlotte-based utility deny any wrongdoing and say workers have been lowering the level of two ponds at the closed plant to conduct routine maintenance. Such pumping is allowed so long as the utility monitors the water to make sure it is safe. Duke says it has been working on the project since last fall and notified the state about its plans in August. A spokesman for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Monday the agency is checking to see whether it was informed and is still investigating whether the discharge was toxic.
 
As Duke seeks permit renewal in Asheville, CEO says changes likely at coal ash ponds (Carolina Public Press) -- The future of Duke Energy’s 14 coal ash waste sites in North Carolina is not yet clear, but there are growing indications that the ponds at the company’s Asheville plant could be headed for a major clean up.
 
Duke Energy: Coal ash pond pumping at Cape Fear began last fall (WECT-TV) -- The nation's largest electric utility says it has been pumping wastewater from a coal ash pond into a canal that leads to the Cape Fear River since last fall. Aerial photos released by environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance show Duke Energy crews pumping water from the coal ash ponds at the head of the river near the now closed Cape Fear Plant near Moncure. The river feeds drinking water sources downstream. WNCN Investigates first learned of the pumping last week and reported on it SundayMonday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told WNCN in a statement that regulators are trying to determine if the water released was treated or untreated. If it was untreated, that would be illegal.