Duke Energy’s clean-up of coal-ash will only take 30 year$

Duke Energy Corp. said the total tab for cleaning up its North Carolina coal-ash dumps may reach $10 billion amid a call for national rules to regulate the disposal of the fossil-fuel byproduct…

The largest U.S. utility owner told a North Carolina legislative commission that if it were required to excavate and relocate all its ash in the state and convert to an all-dry handling system, costs would reach $7 billion to $10 billion and take as long as three decades.

The commission met yesterday to discuss the company’s response to a Feb. 2 spill of about 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. Environmental groups have called on Duke to remove all of its coal-ash dumps after the spill, which has triggered investigations and subpoenas.

Duke should move all its coal ash into lined, dry pits and stop disposing of it in ponds, said Frank Holleman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. Unlined ponds invariably contaminate ground water, and their dams can fail, he said.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission will decide who pays for the cleanup, Holleman said. “Our position is that law-abiding citizens should not pay,” he said. Duke shareholders are liable for the cost because its ash ponds violate pollution laws, Holleman said.

There is no federal regulation of coal ash. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in a January court settlement, agreed to “final action” on proposed coal ash regulations by Dec. 19.

The state utilities commission will determine who pays to clean up ash unless lawmakers decide to change some laws, Tom Williams, a spokesman for Duke, said in a telephone interview. The company has not submitted a proposal to regulators regarding the expenses.

A federal grand jury is probing the state’s oversight of the company’s 33 coal-ash ponds in North Carolina. State officials’ “primary desire” is removal of coal ash ponds from the banks of rivers and streams, Pat McCrory, the state’s Republican governor, said in a Feb. 25 letter to Duke Chief Executive Officer Lynn Good.

It’s worth reminding folks that North Carolina’s Republican governor worked for Duke Energy for thirty years or so. Most folks feel that’s why the energy giant hasn’t gotten more than a slap on the wrist until they managed to promote a world-class disaster.

Keep an eye out for the final solution decided by the state utilities commission. Liable to be small enough to pass downstream unnoticed by ordinary mortals.

10 thoughts on “Duke Energy’s clean-up of coal-ash will only take 30 year$

  1. Aargh! says:

    “The Spill at Dan River” CBS News ’60 Minutes’ S47 (14:00) First aired 12/7/14 “Lesley Stahl reports on how Duke Energy is handling over 100 million tons of coal ash waste in North Carolina” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/duke-energy-on-coal-ash-waste-at-dan-river/
    “Every year coal-burning power plants generate not only electricity, but a staggering amount of leftover coal ash that contains heavy metals unhealthy to humans. Yet due in part to intense industry lobbying, there are no federal regulations on its disposal. It’s left to the states to oversee some of the most powerful utility companies in the country.
    So coal ash is often just dumped into giant pits that are dug by rivers and lakes, where toxins can leach into nearby water and soil. There are over 1,000 ash pits or ponds dotting the nation, many of them old, poorly monitored, all but forgotten. But every few years we are reminded that the status quo can lead to disaster –like the coal ash spill this past February into North Carolina’s Dan River at a power plant owned by Duke Energy, the biggest utility company in the country.
    …After we asked state officials about this particular leak, lab tests were done showing “notably elevated concentrations of sulphate, aluminum, iron, manganese, boron and strontium.” The state says the leak doesn’t impact the overall health of the river, but is illegal; a violation of the Clean Water Act. Yet environmentalists like Frank Holleman say that over the years the state never forced Duke to clean up its ash ponds, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.
    Lesley Stahl: How powerful is Duke Energy in the state of North Carolina?
    Frank Holleman: It’s the most powerful entity in North Carolina. It spends millions of dollars on political contributions and it has traditionally had a very close relationship with the state regulators.
    Just this year Gov. McCrory cut the budget and staff of the specific department that inspects the ash ponds. The state legislature did pass a law in August, requiring Duke to clean up its plants, but only after the company had already volunteered to do that. Earlier, when Holleman tried to sue Duke, he was thwarted by the state which stepped in and negotiated a settlement that allowed Duke — you guessed it — more time to study, and imposed only a paltry fine.
    Lesley Stahl: Tell everybody how much the fine was.
    Pat McCrory {Duke Energy CEO}: I don’t have that list, but again–
    Lesley Stahl: It was $99,111–
    Pat McCrory: That’s correct.
    Lesley Stahl: which does not sound like a big fine.
    Pat McCrory: It wasn’t a big fine.
    All this has made federal prosecutors suspicious. They empaneled a grand jury to investigate whether Duke or the regulators has done anything illegal to get the state to go easy on the company.
    Lesley Stahl: Virtually every newspaper in the State of North Carolina came out with editorials claiming that Duke was lax, and lawless, when it came to the environment. And acted like a bully with state regulators.
    Lynn Good: I recognize that. I disagree with that characterization. There’s been– it’s been a challenging time, a difficult time. Lots of voices weighing in. Certainly lots of scrutiny, and criticism.

  2. Wob says:

    “The waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant – a by-product from burning coal for electricity – carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.” Scientific American (Dec 2007) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/

  3. Poco a poco says:

    Dominion Virginia Power announced April 17 that it will close nine coal ash ponds at the Bremo Power Station, Chesapeake Energy Center, Chesterfield Power Station, and Possum Point Power Station in Virginia ⇒ due to new coal-
    combustion residual rules established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality ⇐. http://www.nbc12.com/story/28834620/dominion-virginia-power-to-close-coal-ash-ponds-in-state

  4. Update says:

    Duke Energy agreed Tuesday to pay North Carolina regulators $7 million to settle allegations of groundwater pollution at its coal ash pits and to perform accelerated cleanups costing millions of dollars at four sites. The agreement came as lawyers for the country’s largest electric company and the state were preparing courtroom arguments regarding a $25 million fine over groundwater pollution at a Wilmington plant, the state’s largest-ever penalty for environmental damage. The settlement resolves that case and any other groundwater contamination allegations by state regulators at Duke Energy’s coal ash basins around the state. The settlement also triggers accelerated cleanup at the retired Wilmington plant and three other plants that showed signs of offsite groundwater pollution during recent assessments. The state estimated the cleanups would cost between $10 and $15 million total. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/9/29/duke-energy-settles-coal-ash-pollution-case.html

    • Also says:

      One of the world’s largest fertilizer makers is settling a massive hazardous waste lawsuit for nearly $2 billion to help clean up pollution and upgrade leaky facilities in Florida and Louisiana, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. http://www.nola.com/environment/index.ssf/2015/10/mosaic_agrees_to_18_billion_se.html The deal still needs to be finalized by the court. The legal agreement concerns the proper storage and disposal of more than 60 billion tons of hazardous waste.
      Mosaic makes a commonly used phosphorus-based fertilizer, the production of which creates tons of solid waste and polluted water. Mosaic stores the waste in 500-foot-high piles {each about the height of a 50 story building} that span more than 600 acres at eight facilities in Florida and Louisiana. The company’s improper handling of its waste poses a threat to the environment and human health, the government said.

  5. Business as usual says:

    ‘They Deserve To Be Heard’: Sick and Dying Coal Ash Cleanup Workers Fight for Their Lives https://economichardship.org/2020/08/they-deserve-to-be-heard-sick-and-dying-coal-ash-cleanup-workers-fight-for-their-lives/
    Coal ash is the nation’s second-largest waste stream after household garbage, and it contains a slew of heavy metals such as arsenic, chromium, mercury and lead, as well as radioactive materials such as uranium. There are over 1,400 coal ash sites across 45 US states and territories. For decades, the waste material has been dumped by utilities in unlined landfills or ponds, leaking into waterways and groundwater across the country.
    See also “Mapping the Coal Ash Contamination” https://earthjustice.org/features/map-coal-ash-contaminated-sites

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