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Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Negligence


NC Coal Ash Background and Information

On Feb. 2, 2014, a pipe under a Duke Energy coal ash pond in Eden, NC broke, spilling tons of toxic ash into the Dan River.

See our denouncement of Duke’s most recent plan for coal ash clean up and storage. NC WARN’s updated list of principles for fair and just coal ash cleanup in North Carolina explains our response to Duke’s new plan. Read more in our news release about our stance on the cleanup efforts. This article from the Wisconsin Center for Investigate Journalism also sheds doubt on the efficacy of beneficial reuse as a cleanup strategy for coal ash.

CBS ’60 Minutes’ recently aired an interview with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good on the spill and clean-up. It’s worth a watch!

Here is a clear and concise summary of the coal ash situation in NC from WUNC in December.

Here’s what NC WARN and allies are doing to make sure Duke Energy and its shareholders pay for the cleanup and take steps to prevent future coal ash accidents:

  • We commissioned a poll that shows North Carolina voters overwhelmingly believe that Duke Energy shareholders – not customers – should bear the cost of cleaning up all of the utility’s 33 toxic coal ash dumps, and that those whose negligence caused the disastrous Dan River ash spill deserve to be penalized.
  • We publicized the poll in a full-page ad in state newspapers (see image at right).
  • We’re collecting signatures on a petition to hold Duke Energy accountable for responsible and comprehensive coal ash cleanup.
  • We published an op-ed in the News & Observer on June 8: “NC lawmakers cannot kick Duke’s ash can down the road.”
  • We shared a report released on June 10 proving that Duke Energy can afford to bear the entire cost of cleaning up its coal ash disaster.
  • We are urging the General Assembly to pass a meaningful coal ash bill.

On July 3, the NC House passed a “Thom Tillis-Duke Energy Burn the Public” coal ash bill that would leave North Carolinians at the mercy of two regulators — DENR and the Utilities Commission — that have sorry track records of backroom dealing with Duke Energy. There would be very little clean-up, but the public would likely pay billions as Duke turns coal ash failure into a profit center. The Senate passed its own version but the two houses could not agree on a groundwater protection provision and have put off the cleanup until later. The bill may re-emerge in the mid-August special session, but it looks doubtful it will require immediate cleanup of all Duke Energy coal ash sites or address the issue of who pays for the cleanup.

Contact House Speaker Thom Tillis and tell him to keep the public from bearing the cost of coal ash cleanup (a short email or phone call is best:, 919-733-3451 or click here to use our email tool and sample language).

The state’s two largest newspapers have said that Duke Energy should pay the cost of cleaning up the coal ash. Read the editorials in the
Charlotte Observer, June 16
News & Observer, June 21

State Attorney General Roy Cooper also released a strong statement and letter to the legislature on June 18 saying that the public should not bear this burden.

NC WARN’s 3 Key Principles on Coal Ash Cleanup

  1. Stop Harming Communities Near Coal Ash Dumps
    Decisions must be guided by the communities currently and potentially impacted, and who they choose to assist them.
  2. Avoid Harming Other Communities or Wildlife
    Those who might be targeted for delivery of the toxic waste landfills tend to be communities of color or others that polluters have historically perceived as lacking the ability to resist.
  3. Duke Energy Must Pay for ALL Cleanup Costs
    Duke Energy and its shareholders – not customers – are wholly responsible for all costs because, for many years, Duke Energy executives and shareholders have profited from the choice to manage toxic waste recklessly and on the cheap.

More detailed NC WARN position statement, March 24, 2014

Past Events & Actions

March 5 protest at Governor McCrory's mansion. Photo by Phil Fonville.

March 5 protest at Governor McCrory’s mansion.
Photo by Phil Fonville.

The “McCrory 11”, who were arrested on the June 2 Environmental and Health Moral Monday, have released an audio letter of the statement they sat and waited to deliver to Governor McCrory. It is a deeply intentional and caring plea to have a discussion about coal ash cleanup, fracking and environmental justice in general, as well as Medicaid reform.

On April 23, we sent a petition to NC Treasurer Janet Cowell urging her to investigate the coal ash disaster and to vote at Duke Energy’s shareholder meeting to remove Duke Energy board members who had been deemed to have responsibility for the spill. Treasurer Cowell voted to oust one of the Board members and called on Duke to initiate an outside investigation of the spill. Read the Charlotte Observer article on her actions. See the original petition language.

Moral Monday Town Hall in Eden, NC
Monday, March 31, 2014
Read about it here!

Video of March 24 press conference with BREDL and NC WARN

March 5, 2014 — Protesters gathered outside Governor McCrory’s mansion in Raleigh.


Background & Media Reports

Archive of news stories on coal ash

Community fights plans to move coal ash to clay mines, by Joseph Rodriguez, Winston-Salem Journal, August 15, 2015

McCrory won’t sign coal ash bill but will let it become law, by John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal, September 10, 2014

Critics skeptical of claim that coal ash cleanup is finished, by Jon Camp, ABC 11, July 17, 2014

How DENR ran interference for Duke Energy and let the Dan River spill happen, by Jane Porter, The Independent, February 26, 2014

The coal ash spill was a hot topic at Duke Energy’s annual shareholder meeting on May 1st. Read more here.

Why Should You Pay for Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Cleanup?, INDYWeek, April 30, 2104, reporting on NC regulators’ questionable ties to the utility industry that may keep them from pressing Duke to pay for coal ash cleanup.

An article on the cost of cleanup, from the News & Observer.

Governor McCrory released a “Comprehensive Coal Ash Action Plan” (CCAAP) on April 17, 2014. Read the press release by our fellow environmental organizations pointing out the unfortunate flaws and oversights of his plan to clean up the spill.

Coverage of March 24 BREDL/NC WARN press conference
WRAL – Enviros: Keep coal ash out of NC landfills

NC WARN Attorney John Runkle Interviewed on Duke Energy’s monopoly, rate hikes, and coal ash spill.
AARP’s “On the Air” (mp3–Coal Ash discussion starts halfway through the interview).

Coverage of March 18 press conference at Federal Courthouse in Raleigh
WBTV (Charlotte) – Federal Grand Jury to Consider Possible Wrongdoing in Coal Ash Spill, WBTV (Charlotte)
WNCN – “Federal Grand Jury Looks into Duke Energy Spill”, WNCN
WTVD – “Federal Grand Jury Looks into Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill”, WTVD

I-Team investigates coal ash water samples, by Jon Camp, ABC 11 News, March 28, 2014
Utilities Commission subpoenaed in Duke Energy probe
, by Taft Wireback, News & Record (Greensboro), March 11, 2014
Ash Spill Shows How Watchdog was Defanged, by Trip Gabriel, New York Times, February 28, 2014
Regulatory Favoritism in North Carolina, Editorial, New York Times, February 16, 2014
North Carolina: Federal Prosecutors Seek Records Related to Sludge Spill, Associated Press, February 13, 2014