Southern law center seeks to get new party into Duke ash case

On behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association, the Southern Environmental Law Center on Oct. 2 filed a request with Wake County Superior Court in North Carolina that the association be allowed to participate in pending coal ash enforcement actions against Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK).

This case, filed in 2013 by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, involves coal ash pollution at Duke’s Roxboro Steam Station in Person County on Hyco Lake and its Mayo Steam Station on Mayo Lake near Roxboro.

“Local communities must be at the table to protect themselves and their clean water from coal ash catastrophes,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Today, we’re making sure that the people of the Roanoke River Basin have a say in what happens with Duke Energy’s coal ash in their watershed.”

Both Roxboro and Mayo are near North Carolina’s border with Virginia and are in the same watershed as Duke Energy’s Dan River plant, which had a headline-grabbing coal ash spill in February of this year.

“We do not want another coal ash disaster in the Roanoke River Basin,” said Gene Addesso, president of the Roanoke River Basin Association. “We will be fighting in these cases to see that our rivers are protected from toxic coal ash pollution.”

The coal ash dams at both Roxboro and Mayo are “High Hazard” dams, according to the state of North Carolina. Duke Energy stores 6.9 million tons of coal ash at Mayo and 16.4 million tons at Roxboro, the center said. Most of Duke Energy’s coal ash is stored in unlined pits that pollute groundwater and surface water.

The center noted that Duke University scientists have found elevated levels of arsenic and other coal ash pollution in Hyco Lake and Mayo Lake in recent years. Fish deformities due to selenium coal ash poisoning have been found in Mayo Lake, and in 2008 a coal ash dam at Roxboro had a structural failure.

In response to Clean Water Act notices issued by the Southern Environmental Law Center and local conservation groups, in August 2013 the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources filed enforcement actions against Duke Energy for allegedly violating clean water laws at Roxboro and Mayo. The motion to intervene filed on Oct. 2 asks the court to allow the Roanoke River Basin Association to participate as a party in that litigation.

To date, the court has granted several motions filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center to allow conservation groups across the state to participate as full parties for 12 of the 14 Duke Energy coal ash sites at issue. The motion filed on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association deals with the remaining two sites, Mayo and Roxboro.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.