- Earthjustice announced this week it intends to sue Duke Energy in Kentucky, to compel the utility to disclose critical information related to coal ash storage and emergency planning to communities near coal ash ponds.
- According to the group, Duke has not made public certain required information, including contact information for emergency responders and maps showing where toxic coal ash would spill at each site in the event of a dam breach.
- Duke called the lawsuit an "attempt to use fear and the courts to upend public policy that directs the safe closure of hundreds of ash basins across the nation," and said it shares full versions of emergency plans with first responders.
According to Earthjustice, none of Duke Energy's Emergency Action Plans for a coal ash spill include maps and information needed to contact emergency responders in the event of a disaster.
Ponds at Duke's East Bend power plant near Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, hold 1.4 million tons of coal waste along the banks of the Ohio River, according to Earthjustuce. The utility is "the only one that is withholding this critical information from the public," the group said.
Duke's emergency plan for its East Bend plant has significant data blackouts. The data is listed "confidential" in the report.
According to a brief review by the Associated Press, several utilities including Tennessee Valley Authority, Alabama Power and Ohio-based American Electric Power, do post additional information in their plans.
“Communities near these coal dumps have a right to know what dangers they are facing,” Earthjustice attorney Jenny Cassel said in a statement. “They need to know: If the dam holding this toxic waste breaks, which neighborhoods are going to be flooded? Which waterways? Who can they call to provide emergency response?”
Kentucky has more than 40 coal ash ponds, which Earthjustice says is the third-largest number in the nation. According to the group, almost all of the ponds were built without liners to keep chemicals from leaking into groundwater or nearby surface water.
"Groundwater contamination has been found at numerous coal ash dumps in the state," Earthjustice said.
Duke pushed back against the lawsuit in local media, telling TV station ABC 11 that "public safety and safe operations are our highest priorities."
"Our Emergency Action Plans are but one aspect of the planning steps we take to prepare for an unlikely event," the company said. "We provide full versions of these plans to local emergency planners and first responders and also meet annually with them to review so they have quick access to our site information and can be ready to respond if needed."