North Carolina marks accomplishments on two-year anniversary of coal ash law


Coal ash ponds are being closed, residents will get water connections

Two years after the landmark coal ash management law went into effect, North Carolina has become a national leader in addressing the long-ignored threat coal ash may pose to the environment and public health.

In 2014 North Carolina became the only state in the country to order that every coal ash pond be closed. Since then, more than six million tons of coal ash have been moved, record fines have been issued for environmental violations, and North Carolina has held Duke Energy accountable for the worst environmental disaster in state history.

Governor McCrory signed an update to the law in 2016 that provides common-sense solutions including providing permanent alternate water connections to residents around coal ash facilities, fixing all of the dams around coal ash ponds, and creating a coal ash recycling program. 

In the video below, Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart of the state environmental department explains the actions North Carolina has taken over the last two years toward closing coal ash ponds, strengthening environmental and health protections, and solving once and for all the decades-old coal ash problem.

The video is available for use in news coverage. You can watch it by clicking here.


Hello. I’m Donald van der Vaart, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

On this two-year anniversary of the coal ash law, I’d like to talk to you about the action the McCrory administration has taken to protect the environment and public health from this long-ignored problem.

Previous administrations turned their backs on the threat of coal ash for decades. Their inaction ultimately led to the Dan River spill, the worst environmental disaster in North Carolina history. Within months of taking office, and well before the Dan River spill, Governor Pat McCrory took steps to force Duke Energy to begin cleaning up coal ash.

Under his leadership, North Carolina is the first state in the country to order that every coal ash pond be closed. More than six million tons of coal ash have been moved to safe storage and more is being moved every day. We were the first state to require water connections be provided to people who live near coal ash facilities. We have also held Duke Energy accountable by issuing the largest fines in state history for environmental violations.

This administration continues to offer common sense solutions. The governor signed updated legislation this year that puts Duke Energy on a strict timetable for installing alternate water connections, fixing all of the dams around its coal ash ponds, and recycling coal ash.

Seven of Duke Energy’s coal ash facilities will already be dug up. Decisions about how to close the rest will continue to be driven by science.

North Carolina is also conducting environmental justice reviews to make sure low-income and minority communities aren’t affected by new coal ash landfills.

I’ve worked in the environmental department for more than twenty years and continue to be impressed with the work of our staff, scientists and engineers who tackled this issue head on. I want to thank these dedicated professionals for their tireless work on this unique effort to safely close every coal ash pond in the state. 

We are committed to building on our progress and removing once and for all any threat coal ash may pose to the environment or public health.

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