- Duke Energy last week released plans to deal with its coal ash basins in North Carolina, though the utility's proposal immediately drew the ire of activists and will likely wind up being challenged, the Charlotte Observer reported.
- Combined with past announcements, Duke's plan is to excavate 34 basins and cap another 18 basins in place.
- But the Charlotte Observer reports that plan leaves the majority of the coal waste in place, and officials at the Southern Environmental say that could make many communities vulnerable to contaminated water supplies.
Duke last week publicly released plans to close 36 coal as basins regulated by the federal Coal Combustion Residuals rule, outlining a process that would leave about 70% of the waste capped in place.
The plan aligns with a measure that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) approved this summer requiring Duke to clean up coal ash pits at half of its sites without having to excavate the waste, while supplying clean drinking water to residents near the ponds by 2018.
In a statement, Duke said it "has already committed to safely close all of its 60 coal ash basins in ways that protect people, the environment and customers' wallets."
The utility has faced scrutiny surrounding its coal ash ponds since a pipe rupture in 2014 dumped waste into the Dan River. In 2015, the company pled guilty to nine misdemeanor federal violations of the Clean Water Act committed by three subsidiaries in the spill, and paid $102 million in fines and penalties. Then in September, Duke and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reached a settlement calling for the utility to pay a $6 million fine related to the spill.
The process to plan for coal ash removal has been ongoing for months. In October, Duke announced it would remove coal ash from three basins at the Buck Steam Station in Salisbury, N.C., and recycle some of the material for concrete.