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NC DEQ (formerly DENR) reduces proposed fine 98%, seeks to stop enforcement at all 14 coal ash sites statewide


Coal ash on Moutnain Island Lake

For Immediate Release: September 29, 2015

(Charlotte, NC) The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ; formerly Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or DENR) gutted a proposed $25 million settlement for the Sutton (Wilmington) coal ash and instead settled with Duke Energy for $7 million – and applied that to all 14 coal ash sites around the state.

“DEQ has once again demonstrated that it is disingenuous about holding Duke Energy accountable for its coal ash pollution,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. “DEQ and Duke have constantly deferred to ongoing, incomplete groundwater assessments and risk evaluations as laid out by the Coal Ash Management Act. How can DEQ in particular settle on all 14 sites if it thinks there are still evaluations that need to be made?”

In March, then-DENR proposed a $25 million fine for groundwater contamination just at Sutton. The new settlement applies to all 14 coal ash sites statewide, including Allen (Lake Wylie) and Marshall (Lake Norman), for an average of $500,000 per site – a 98 percent fine reduction. In July 2013, DENR and Duke proposed a similar grossly inadequate settlement – a $99,000 fine and no cleanup for coal ash contamination at Riverbend (Mountain Island Lake) and Asheville. Almost 5,000 public comments were received on that settlement with literally all but one opposing it. “The last settlement attempt stalled and then was withdrawn after the Dan River coal ash disaster months later. Will we have to have another coal ash disaster to see this settlement rescinded?”

“DEQ has abandoned its duty as an enforcement agency, and it has abandoned hundreds of people around coal ash ponds, where drinking water wells have been deemed unsafe for consumption. This is a deplorable move to exclude the public and particularly citizen law enforcement in the form of our attempt to uphold the law and hold Duke accountable. We have seen shameful games like this before in the legal process, but our lawsuits remain active, and we will continue to pursue them to the fullest extent.”

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