Southern Environmental Law Center

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

At least 30,000 tons of coal ash poured through a broken Duke Energy stormwater pipe and into the Dan River earlier this month. The spill is the third largest of its kind in US history.

But that spill was much smaller than an accident in Tennessee six years ago.

It was the middle of the night, three days before Christmas in 2008 when part of a retention wall at a Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash pond ruptured.  A dike failed and millions of gallons of potentially toxic waste were unleashed.

7-time Mayor of Charlotte and Republican nominee for Governor of North Carolina. At Cary Innovation Center, July 11, 2012.
Hal Goodtree / Creative Commons/Flickr

Governor Pat McCrory has sent a letter to Duke Energy’s CEO asking the company to remove coal ash from sites near waterways. In the letter McCrory says his administration has expressed its primary desire that coal ash ponds be moved away from waterways.

“This is a good development but we’re still dealing with words and not actions,” said Frank Holleman is senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.”

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

  

This week, the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, DENR, is testing fish tissue in the Dan River for contamination from the Duke Energy coal ash spill earlier this month.  The Southern Environmental Law Center claims they warned Duke Energy and DENR of a potential spill last year. 

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

 

Earlier this month a stormwater pipe running under a coal ash pond in Eden ruptured. It did the following:

A federal investigation into Duke Energy’s coal ash spill expanded this week to include more employees of the state’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources. The agency’s head, Secretary John Skvarla, defended their work and their relationship with Duke Energy. Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC reporter Jeff Tiberii about the legal case and on-going debate about the clean-up.

Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired generating facility in Gaston County, NC.  Riverbend will be retired by 2015 as part of Duke Energy’s strategy to modernize its power plants.
Duke Energy via Flickr, Creative Commons

Environmental groups are asking to take part in negotiations over how to clean-up contaminated ground water sites. The state Division of Environment and Natural Resources – DENR – is trying to reach a settlement with Duke Energy about how to clean up sites contaminated with coal ash, from power plants. Many conservationists don’t think DENR’s proposed settlements will go far enough – and have asked a judge for permission to join the state’s lawsuit as plaintiffs.

The Bonner Bridge connects Bodie and Hatteras Islands on the Outer Banks
ncdot.org

A federal judge has issued a ruling partially clearing the way for a new span to replace the Bonner Bridge along the Outer Banks

Activists represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center claim building a new bridge parallel to the existing bridge that links Hatteras Island and the mainland would harm coastal wildlife habitats. They want a longer, more costly bridge further out in Pamlico Sound.

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

Duke Energy has reached a tentative settlement with state regulators regarding lawsuits over leaks from its coal ash ponds in Asheville and on the Catawba River.  The company has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.  The consent order would require the company to determine the cause and the extent of those leaks into groundwater and into Mountain Island Lake, the source of Charlotte’s water supply.  Susan Massengale with the state division of water quality says the agreement lays out a timeline for Duke to do that.

An exemption for biomass facilities from carbon dioxide limits under the Clean Air Act is being challenged in court. The Environmental Protection Agency is exempting biomass facilities from the rules for the next three years because they're considered carbon-neutral or low-carbon emitters. Frank Rambo is the senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center working on that case.

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