Santee Cooper coal ash, coal plant demolition updated

South Carolina-owned utility Santee Cooper 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, environmental groups said Jan. 25.

In related news, Santee Cooper said Jan 25 that its contractors are scheduled to demolish the two smoke stacks at the Grainger coal plant on Feb. 7. Plans are being finalized now to topple the stacks with a series of small, controlled explosions that weaken the stacks on one side and so direct their fall. The event will be conducted by Maryland-based Controlled Demolition Inc. (CDI).

Santee Cooper operated Grainger Generating Station from 1966 to 2012, when the coal-fired station was retired as part of the utility’s move to a more diverse mix of generating resources, including additional renewable resources and nuclear generation.

Santee Cooper has set a goal to meet 40% of its customers’ energy needs by 2020 with non-greenhouse emitting resources, renewable resources, conservation and energy efficiency.

The coal ash is being removed under a settlement between clients represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) – the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) – and Santee Cooper. 

That settlement was entered into in November of 2013, following a year and a half of litigation, the environmental groups noted in a news release.

In a January 2016 report, Santee Cooper sets outs that in 2015 it removed over 284,000 tons of coal ash from the Grainger coal 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 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,” the environmental attorney said.

In agreements with the conservation groups represented by SELC, 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 (Horry County), Jefferies (Berkeley County), and Winyah (Georgetown County) facilities. Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) is removing coal ash from its Lee (Anderson County) facility and has committed to remove its ash from its unlined pit at its retired Robinson coal plant (Darlington County). 

SCANA (NYSE:SCG) utility 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 (Richland County).

The Southern Environmental Law Center also represents local conservation groups in North Carolina who are pushing Duke Energy to clean up all its 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, SELC said.

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