By Stephanie Carroll Carson
Courtesy of North Carolina News Service
DANBURY, N.C. – It took about two months for more than 39,000 tons of coal ash to leak into the Dan River from Duke Energy’s retired coal-fired power plant, but cleanup is expected to take much longer than that.
The hold-up goes beyond the large task ahead, and extends to the state’s courtrooms.
This week North Carolina regulators joined Duke Energy in appealing a judge’s ruling on cleaning up groundwater pollution leaching from the company’s 37 coal ash ponds across the state.
Dean Naujoks, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, says the judge made it clear that Duke should clean up all the ponds.
“It is really surprising to me that with the criminal investigation and all the media attention that this agency and our state government would then intervene on behalf of Duke yet again to shield them from enforcement,” he says.
Naujoks and others say the collaboration between the state and Duke conflicts with the public interest and promises by Gov. Pat McCrory that the state would stand up to the state’s only energy provider.
Duke continues to insist it is cooperating with the state.
Recent reports of coal ash and contaminated groundwater leaking from other ponds around the state make Naujoks and others believe this could be just the beginning of a growing environmental impact.
He says it’s important to let state agencies charged with protecting water quality and the environment do their job.
“Our regulatory agencies should be allowed and encouraged to do their jobs,” he says. “And it’s just absolutely frustrating to me that to just have just blatant refusal to actually fulfill the mission to protect public health and the environment. ”
Internal analysis by the Yadkin Riverkeeper indicates North Carolina is now in 50th place when it comes to funding for environmental enforcement.
More than 200 jobs from those areas have been cut in the past two years.