Enviro group: Duke needs to learn a lesson from Santee Cooper on coal ash

The Southern Environmental Law Center said in a Jan. 25 statement that while Duke Energy stalls on moving ash at seven of its 14 unlined, leaking coal ash sites across North Carolina, South Carolina utility Santee Cooper reports that it has removed one-third of the coal ash from its Grainger coal ash pits in Conway, S.C., on the banks of the Waccamaw River, ahead of schedule.

The coal ash is being removed under a settlement between clients represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center and Santee Cooper. That settlement was entered into in November 2013, following a year and a half of litigation.

In a January 2016 report, Santee Cooper says that in 2015 it removed over 284,000 tons of coal ash from the Grainger ash lagoons. In 2014, Santee Cooper previously reported the removal of over 164,000 tons of ash – for a total of almost 450,000 tons of coal ash removed from the Grainger site. At this rate, Santee Cooper will finish its removal by the end of 2019, four years ahead of schedule, the center said. The Grainger settlement agreement requires complete removal by the end of 2023.

“Santee Cooper is removing coal ash from unlined pits on the Waccamaw River and is far ahead of schedule,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Santee Cooper’s work shows that utilities throughout the South can clean up their unlined coal ash storage by moving ash to safe, dry, lined storage or recycling it for concrete. The Waccamaw River and the Conway community are cleaner and safer, and all communities with unlined coal ash pits deserve the same treatment.”

In agreements with the conservation groups represented by the center, the utilities in South Carolina agreed to remove all their coal ash stored in unlined pits to dry, lined storage away from the rivers and groundwater or to recycle it for concrete. Coal ash is being removed by Santee Cooper at its Grainger, Jeffries and Winyah facilities. Duke Energy is removing coal ash from its Lee facility and has committed to remove its ash from its unlined pit at Robinson. South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) has committed to remove all its ash from unlined riverfront pits to dry lined storage and is moving ash from its Wateree facility.

The Southern Environmental Law Center also represents local conservation groups in North Carolina who are pushing Duke Energy to clean up all its leaking, waterfront unlined coal ash storage across that state. Duke Energy has agreed to remove the ash from seven of its 14 unlined coal ash storage sites, but continues to fight efforts to clean up its coal ash storage at the remaining seven leaking coal ash sites throughout North Carolina, the center said. These leaking North Carolina coal ash sites include rivers that flow into South Carolina – the Broad River and the Catawba River, the center pointed out.

The Southern Environmental Law Center was founded in 1986 and has a team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

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.