Duke Energy misled the public about “filling clay mines” and could be planning a two-state coal ash dump
Statement by Director Jim Warren:
DURHAM, NC – Duke Energy’s November proposal to transport millions of tons of toxic coal ash to Lee and Chatham counties was not presented honestly to the public, it violates community sovereignty, and it would spread Duke’s coal ash negligence onto even more state residents and taxpayers.
NC WARN is increasing our legal and grassroots support for Lee-Chatham citizen groups, local governments and nonprofit allies opposing the clay mine scheme, just as we are helping communities already impacted by coal ash to fight for justice amid this ongoing statewide catastrophe.
We are calling on Duke Energy to withdraw its applications for Lee and Chatham, and to begin an open, honest dialogue with the people of North Carolina about how best to resolve the coal ash issue.
NC WARN today released an update of last February’s principles for the handling of Duke’s toxic waste dilemma, whereby we demand fairness for all communities and electricity customers – and insist that current toxic injustices cannot be solved by dumping on other communities.* In line with these principles, NC WARN has serious technical and legal concerns with what Duke PR officials call “clay mine reclamation” in Lee and Chatham Counties.
At public forums and to the news media, Duke Energy says it wants to fill abandoned clay mines with coal ash. But in fact, the clay mines would be small sections among massive excavations that effectively become landfills, with coal ash heaped high above ground level. That’s not “mine reclamation.” It’s a toxic waste dump, and the size of the sites suggests Duke might intend to bring coal ash to Lee-Chatham from its power plants across both of the Carolinas.
On December 29, the US EPA declared coal ash a solid waste. Under NC law, solid waste must be put into regulated landfills, not used under a cloak of “mine reclamation,” a process recently linked by University of Wisconsin researchers with groundwater contamination and health damage.**
VIOLATION OF TRUST
Duke Energy’s applications were made without warning to the targeted communities. Local governments in both counties have taken strong positions opposing the toxic landfills, and broad-based community groups have been formed to fight the plans.
Apparently, Duke has little confidence in clay mine storage, since its plan would leave permanent liability for failures with a thin shell corporation – which would leave North Carolina taxpayers financially vulnerable for contamination that spreads from the dump or from transport to it.
Among the other principles restated by NC WARN are that Duke Energy’s shareholders – not customers – must pay for all of the statewide cleanups, as this corporation created the toxic waste problem over decades of indifference and willful neglect. Also,
- All alternative means of safe coal ash storage and protection of our communities should be investigated. Duke Energy has the resources to explore and compare potentially viable alternatives, and its efforts to date to find the fastest or cheapest cleanup are unlikely to prove the best option for the people of North Carolina. Until the safest management approach is determined, coal ash should be stored on Duke Energy property such that it can be monitored and retrieved – but well away from ground and surface waters.
- The entire process of cleanup, transportation, and long-term storage should be far more open and transparent than the process over the past year. Public voices should be respected at every instance. Local governments and the impacted communities they represent should have prominent roles in deciding the fate of coal ash.
If Duke Energy had a defensible plan for its toxic waste dilemma, it would have opened an honest dialogue with the people of North Carolina instead of pretending it plans to fill clay mines with waste while actually planning a massive landfill where the retired mine is a small part of the space.
See the updated NC WARN principles statement
‘Beneficial reuse’ of coal ash could contaminate drinking water statewide – Water Watch Wisconsin