Governor McCrory makes North Carolina a national leader in coal ash regulation

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 - 12:00am

Governor Pat McCrory has made North Carolina a national leader in coal ash regulation and cleanup since Duke Energy’s Dan River coal ash spill two years ago today. Within the first few months of taking office, the McCrory administration began holding Duke Energy accountable for violating environmental laws for many years. The state further intensified its approach  to addressing the long-ignored issue of coal ash after the Dan River spill. The progress Governor McCrory’s administration has made over the past two years stands in stark contrast to the deliberate inaction of previous administrations.

Governor McCrory’s Comprehensive Coal Ash Action Plan provided the framework for North Carolina’s first ever coal ash law, which put Duke Energy on an aggressive timeline to permanently close all of its coal ash ponds. The new law strengthened the state’s authority to clean up and close the ponds, ensures dam safety and protects water quality. The structural integrity of every dam at a coal ash facility has been checked and improved to prevent structural failure similar to what caused the Dan River spill.State regulators required the inspection of all Duke Energy dams and the submission of video inspections of all stormwater and wastewater piping at every pond.
 
Under the direction of Governor McCrory, the state environmental department issued to Duke Energy the state’s largest-ever penalty for environmental damages. As a result, Duke Energy paid $7 million in fines and penalties for groundwater contamination at all 14 coal ash facilities and is required to spend between $10 million and $15 million in accelerated cleanup costs. We have now turned our attention to holding Duke Energy accountable for environmental violations resulting from the Dan River spill. We have decided not to proceed with a March 2014 agreement with the federal government, given the state has the authority to enforce the law without federal approval. However, we will inform our federal partner of the state's actions.
 
Coal ash is being moved to environmentally safe storage from five Duke Energy facilities, including all four of the high priority sites identified in the coal ash law. State regulators have issued the necessary approvals to allow for dry ash removal from more than half of Duke Energy’s coal ash facilities. 
 
We have also begun determining the level of risk each coal ash pond presents to public health and the environment. Staff within the state environmental department developed draft proposed classifications for all coal ash ponds in North Carolina based on months of review of scientific information about each pond’s impact to the environment and public health. The classification process will determine the closure timeline for each of Duke Energy's 33 coal ash ponds in accordance with the framework developed by Governor McCrory. This administration is committed to basing its decisions on science and public input.