'Astonishing:' State Appeals Requirement To Clean-Up Coal Ash

Apr 8, 2014

Credit Southern Environmental Law Center

A North Carolina environmental agency is appealing a recent ruling that called for immediate action to stop groundwater contamination, caused by coal ash.

The Environmental Management Commission (EMC) is a state regulatory panel. Its members are currently appointed by three republican lawmakers. Two years ago the EMC said it didn't have the authority to force Duke Energy to clean up the causes of groundwater contamination at 14 sites around the state. Environmentalists filed a lawsuit, claiming the EMC wasn't properly reading or enforcing the law. State judge Paul Ridgeway agreed with that take last month, telling the agency it had authority to mandate that Duke deal with contaminants.

Now, that same agency is appealing the judge's ruling. 

DJ Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, called this appeal astonishing.
"So the state is now on the same side of this appeal as Duke Energy, defending Duke against our effort to enforce the law against them," said DJ Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, who called this appeal astonishing. 

The appeal is part of a larger legal story. There are four state lawsuits pending against Duke Energy for polluting water. A federal criminal investigation was launched into the relationship between Duke and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, DENR. That agency is given its enforcement guidelines from the EMC.  In early February a stormwater pipe running under a coal ash pond in Eden ruptured, sending 39-thousand tons of potentially toxic material into the Dan River, marking the third largest spill of its kind in U-S history. >> Browse all of our reporting about the coal ash disaster.