Duke Energy

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

At the North Carolina General Assembly, key members of the Senate will take their first vote today on a coal ash proposal. Lawmakers have been grappling all year with possible contamination from 33 coal ash ponds Duke Energy has across the state.

The problem is not new. North Carolina has been accumulating coal ash for most of the past century. Power companies burn coal to generate electricity, cool off the remaining ash with water and then pour it into ponds and keep it there.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Members of the North Carolina Senate took up the issue of coal ash clean up Thursday. They heard the first public presentation of how the governor wants to address possible contamination from coal ash ponds across the state.

But before we get into the governor’s plan, here's the story of Sherry Gobble and why coal ash might be a problem.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Federal Environmental Protection Agency officials introduced a proposed rule Monday that would reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by one-third in the next 16 years. The potential reduction in carbon emissions could vary significantly between states. The initial draft would mandate North Carolina cut carbon emissions 40-percent by 2030. That figure is based on last year's amount of pollution.

North Carolina gets more than half its power from coal. The vast majority of that is produced by Duke Energy - the nation's largest electricity provider. 

Triad News Update

May 20, 2014
The Dan River flows through Danville, VA 22 miles down stream from the site of a coal ash spill in Eden. Officials say treated water there remains safe to drink.
Jeff Tiberii


Two Republican lawmakers introduced a bill to the North Carolina Senate last week to cut back on the threat of coal ash pollution in North Carolina. 

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

The first piece of legislation leaders of the North Carolina Senate introduced in this summer’s legislative session looks at Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds across the state.

That means that on Wednesday, their first day in session this year, the senate’s Republican leadership sent a clear signal that it’s a priority for them to resolve the state’s issue of toxic coal ash dumps. What they didn't send was a clear picture of how they want to resolve it.

A map of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites and their operational status in 14 energy plants across the state.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy told North Carolina law makers Tuesday that it would cost up to $10 billion and could take 30 years to remove all the company’s coal ash from areas near rivers and lakes across the state.  

In a hearing called specifically to address the coal ash basins, Duke’s North Carolina President Paul Newton told law makers the company needed flexibility to find faster and less costlier alternatives to ensure its ash won’t contaminate bodies of water.

Trees in Chapel Hill,
Laura Candler

Officials with Duke Energy have decided to hold off on a program that would have used a chemical product, Cambistat, to slow the growth of trees near power lines. The utility planned to inject the application into the soil around trees.  The application would slow growth, reduce how often trees near power lines needed to be trimmed, and save money. But residents questioned the risks, and complained that they were being forced into the program. 

A picture of segments of pipeline.
Harald Hoyer / Creative Commons

Two major energy companies want to build a second natural gas pipeline into North Carolina.

Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas are soliciting proposals for a pipeline that could carry 900 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Duke is shifting a significant portion of its energy portfolio from coal into natural gas. Piedmont transports gas for both companies via the Transco line from the Texas gulf.

Piedmont spokesman David Trusty said production was interrupted after Hurricane Katrina. He says the companies want to be able to diversify their natural gas sources.

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Leaders of the Moral Monday movement focused on coal ash during a town hall meeting in Eden. The 'Moral Monday' event consisted of two panels of people to discuss the health, environmental and economic impacts of the coal ash spill that originated in Eden, near the Virginia border almost two months ago. As much as 39,000 tons of potentially toxic ash poured into the Dan River when a metal pipe running through a Duke Energy coal ash dump, ruptured. The ash has been found as far as 70 miles downstream. Some of the ash at the spill site in Eden has been removed by the utility.

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have announced they are abandoning a proposed settlement with Duke Energy over the clean-up of coal ash. The proposed settlement would have levied Duke with a $99,000 fine, but had no requirement to remove or clean-up coal ash at two sites in the state.