Duke Energy ordered to excavate coal ash: Will they, and who's going to pay for it?
Updated: Jul 3, 2019
On April 1, 2019, the NC DEQ ordered Duke Energy to excavate the six remaining coal ash storage ponds in North Carolina and move the ash to new or existing lined landfills. The DEQ and many other coal ash cleanup advocates (including Good Stewards) believe the best action to protect the environment would be complete removal of ash at the six remaining sites, to which Duke Energy appealed on April 26, 2019. The six sites are Belews Creek, Allen, Cliffside/Rogers, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro. Duke Energy wants to keep the coal ash in place and cover the basins with a liner. This 'cap and place' method would be cheaper and could require less time to complete but offers little protection for the environment and water sources endangered by these massive reservoirs. For perspective, the coal ash pond pictured above at Belews Creek is 277 acres! Until the final decision is made we will continue to advocate for coal ash excavation and begin monitoring water quality in the Dan River near the Belews Creek site. Many municipalities rely on the Dan River for their water supply as well as farmers who use the water for their crops. Everyone deserves access to clean water without fear of chemical contamination.
So with cleanup certain, who's paying for it?
Duke Energy would prefer their customers, not shareholders, foot the bill. The estimated cost of coal ash excavation is over $10 billion and Duke is eager to avoid it. There are two conflicting bills currently in the NC Legislature that could impact the decision. One of those bills is being fast tracked through the legislature and could provide a path for Duke Energy to pass the cleanup costs to ratepayers, Senate Bill 559.
Senate Bill 559 would allow Duke Energy, and Dominion, ask the N.C. Utilities Commission for successive rate increases covering up to five years. This bill would strip power from the Utilities Commission and could lock residential and business consumers into higher rates for multiple years, making the costs of coal ash removal more easily passed to consumers.
The more positive of the two bills, House Bill 567, would prevent utilities in NC from passing costs of coal ash excavation to consumers and require excavation of all existing coal ash storage facilities to lined landfills. HB 567 is not on a fast track at this point and approval in the Senate is unlikely.
It is important for us all to keep pressure on our elected officials so Duke Energy is held accountable to do the right thing, excavate, and THEY need to pay for it. Contact your representatives in NC today by following the link below.