Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

North Carolina has ordered Duke Energy to excavate existing coal ash pits and transfer the contents to lined containment areas to limit groundwater pollution.The question now is, who should pay the clean up costs, the company or its customers?


Duke Energy Wants Consumers To Pay For Coal Ash Clean Up

North Carolina has ordered Duke Energy to excavate existing coal ash pits and transfer the contents to lined containment areas to limit groundwater pollution.The question now is, who should pay the clean up costs, the company or its customers?

There are few things on Earth more disgusting and harmful to the environment than coal ash — the toxic stew left over after coal is burned to make electricity. For generations, utility companies have just let the stuff accumulate in massive piles next door to their generating facilities, often in unlined pits where rainwater turns it into a lethal stew. That water is often then allowed to leach into the surrounding environment, polluting the rivers, streams, and aquifers for miles around.

A Duke Energy coal ash lagoon in NC, closed in 2012 (


Excavate & Relocate

A week ago, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reached a momentous decision. It ordered Duke Energy to dig up all remaining coal ash ponds in the state and transfer the contents to lined landfills, according to a report by WRAL News.

Secretary of Environmental Quality Michael Regan said his staff reached the conclusion that digging up and removing the ash was the only option to protect public health and the environment after a scientific review of Duke’s proposals for the sites and meeting with affected communities.

“Some of these ash ponds are over 200 acres, and some of these plumes are over 300 feet deep — these contamination plumes. So, what we did is we modeled it out. We looked at the science and we had to make a determination of what’s most protective of North Carolinians and our environment. We know for sure we have the science and the law to support our decision,” Regan said.

It’s Too Expensive!

Duke Energy, of course, was less than pleased by the DEQ decision, claiming all the affected sites were previously rated as low-risk by the state (at a time when the state was firmly in the hands of rabid “corporations can do no wrong” Republicans). It says the “science and engineering support a variety of closure methods [other than excavation] that all protect public health and the environment.”

“We are making strong progress to permanently close every ash basin in North Carolina in ways that fully protect people and the environment, while keeping costs down as much as possible for our customers,” company officials said in a statement. Excavating could take decades and add up to $5 billion to the current estimated $5.6 billion cost of coal ash cleanup, the company says.

Who Should Pay?

Ah, now we get to the heart of the matter — money. Duke Energy wants its customers to pay for the cleanup. Last year (before the political landscape shifted in North Carolina), the North Carolina Utilities Commission allowed Duke Energy to charge the cost of cleaning up two of its generating stations to customers.

But now the political wheel has turned. Democratic governor Roy Cooper said in a recent statement, “We’ve seen the damage this pollution can do, including the families who had to live for years on bottled water until we were able to get them connected to permanent water solutions. Now, the cleanup of remaining coal ash needs to move ahead efficiently and effectively.”

“The debate about how to deal with Duke Energy’s coal ash mess should be over,” Dave Rogers, of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, said in a statement. “Duke owes it to our communities to clean up its toxic mess and not try to force customers to foot the bill for it.”

New Legislation Filed

Democrats now control the North Carolina House of Representatives and have filed proposed legislation that would block Duke Energy from forcing its customers to pay coal ash excavation costs, according to the Charlotte Observer. A similar bill will face an uphill battle in the state’s Republican controlled Senate, however. The issue of who pays is far from settled and will probably wind up in court.

Duke’s position is standard operating procedure for businesses in America — privatize the profits and socialize the costs. The fossil fuel companies have been playing this “heads we win, tails you lose” game for generations and have it down to a science. Perhaps Duke Energy customers will weigh in on the issue once they find out how much the clean up costs will add to their monthly utility bills. Tens of thousands of angry customers could well be the decisive factor in this battle.

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


You May Also Like

Clean Power

Sol Systems is partnering with Google to bring more renewable energy to the Carolinas in a way that promotes social justice.

Clean Power

When I think of Duke Energy, I think of North Carolina. This is partly because I have family out there, and partly because the...


Cutting global heating emissions relies in huge part on electrifying transport. Electrifying transport relies on massively scaling up mining & processing of a handful...

Clean Power

Yesterday, Governor Roy Cooper spoke at the North Carolina Medium- and Heavy-Duty (MHD) Electric Vehicle State Policy Bootcamp to highlight how crucial electrifying MHD...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.