McCrory administration ignores state law deadline for Duke Energy coal ash cleanups
RALEIGH, NC — May 18, 2016 — Today the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) missed a statutory deadline to issue final site ratings that would have determined the fate of coal ash currently stored in leaking ponds at Duke Energy power plants across the state. The agency, under the administration of Governor Pat McCrory, flouted the deadline by issuing non-committal “proposed” ratings, rather than final determinations.
The agency also released a statement that says the McCrory administration intends to ask the state legislature for the ability to change the ratings in a year and a half, complaining that the timeline for classification and cleanup of the sites was “too compressed.” The statement failed to acknowledge that it was the McCrory administration itself that established the timeline when it drafted the legislation that became the state Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA).
“Governor McCrory has consistently pointed to CAMA to glorify himself as the governor who has done more to clean up coal ash than any other,” said Pete Harrison, attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance, which is suing Duke Energy for illegal coal ash pollution across the state. “Now, his administration is making a mockery of the law and continuing to cower away from taking one iota of meaningful action to clean up leaking coal ash dumps. To this day, the McCrory’s DEQ has not required Duke Energy to clean up one ounce of coal ash anywhere in the state,” Harrison said.
The central issue with the ratings is whether Duke Energy may leave its coal ash in leaking ponds next to rivers and neighborhoods (known as “cap-in-place” pond closure), or if it would instead be required to dig the ash up and move it to dry-storage facilities in safer locations.
Under DEQ’s “proposed” rankings issued today, Duke Energy would be required to excavate all coal ash at every pond in the state. The agency’s non-committal language and announcement that it wants the ability to change the rankings next year cast doubt on the agency’s conviction.
“DEQ just ducked its responsibility and punted it into the future. As usual, North Carolina’s so-called leadership has shown it lacks the courage to stand up to powerful polluters, even when people’s health is at stake.”
Prior to today’s rankings, Duke Energy had already agreed to fully excavating the ash at half of its 14 power plants in North Carolina, thanks to the investigations and enforcement activities of Waterkeeper Alliance and other environmental advocacy groups. Last year, DEQ actively opposed excavation at three of those sites.