Coal Ash Deal: No permanent water for years. Coal ash pits forever.
A new measure in House Bill 630 allows Duke Energy to leave toxic coal ash in 7 unlined pits as long as they make repairs to the dams. They are still required to clean up 7 other pits and recycle 300,000 tons of ash, but what about the families? Many coal ash victims feel as if Duke Energy's punishment is too light. The only solution for the health and safety of affected North Carolina residents is a full clean-up.
Under the measure, ash from seven of 14 sites across the state must still be dug up and stored elsewhere. But in seven locations, if Duke makes repairs to coal ash dams and provides permanent water supplies to neighbors whose wells are potentially affected by coal ash contamination, those pits would get "low hazard" designation. That designation would let Duke take the water out of the pits and cap them, leaving the ash in place.
Homeowners who live near coal ash ponds decried the agreement, saying that it goes easy on a company that has upended their lives.
"We don't understand why the state's not holding Duke's feet to the fire," said Deborah Graham, a homeowner near Duke's Buck Steam Station in Salisbury. "There should be no strings attached to clean water. ... It's almost like Duke wrote this whole thing themselves."
"This bill abandons the idea that risk to groundwater and surface water should determine closure methods and timelines at half of the coal ash sites in the state," said Molly Diggins, state director for the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club.
In addition to mapping the way forward on coal ash, the bill also affirms that lawmakers can keep other commissions overseeing oil and gas drilling in place.