Southern Environmental Law continues own suit on Duke coal ash

A Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) attorney is unimpressed with a proposed settlement agreement that North Carolina regulators have reached with Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) subsidiaries regarding discharges from coal ash sites at the Asheville and Riverbend power plants.

SELC Senior Attorney Frank Holleman said July 17 that the consent order announced days earlier by the state Division of Water Quality is “woefully inadequate.” As a result, SELC and client Catawba Riverkeeper will proceed with ongoing federal litigation regarding Duke’s coal ash lagoons.

Holleman also told GenerationHub that SELC is seeking to intervene in the North Carolina state court case where the Duke regulatory consent order has been filed.

The SELC attorney said that consent order mostly requires Duke to do more monitoring and analysis. In addition, the order includes a relatively modest fine for Duke’s leaking coal ash waste near the water supply for Charlotte, N.C., Holleman said.

The SELC continues its legal actions in an attempt to force Duke to abandon wet storage of coal ash, especially near drinking water supplies. In neighboring South Carolina, SCANA (NYSE:SCG) has done a better job of moving from wet storage to dry storage of coal combustion residue, Holleman said.

A video on the Catawba Riverkeeper website blames “unlined ash ponds” with threatening fish along the regional river system. The same video also raised questions about potential mercury emissions from Duke’s new Cliffside coal unit. Catawba Riverkeeper also said in the video that it is filing comments with FERC regarding Duke Energy’s application for new long-term licenses for its hydroelectric dams along the Catawba system.

Catawba Riverkeeper is represented by SELC in the Duke coal ash case.

“By the end of this year, Duke Energy will have retired seven of its 14 North Carolina coal plants as part of modernizing our fleet and building cleaner plants,” Duke said in a July 16 statement. “The ash basins at those retired sites will be closed according to state and federal regulations.”

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at