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Duke finalizes agreement on estimated $9B coal ash basin closures in NC

Duke Energy, state regulators and community groups have agreed on a plan to permanently close the utility’s remaining nine coal ash basins in North Carolina.

The parties include Duke, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Duke says the plan will save $1.5 billion in closure costs over previous estimates.

“This agreement significantly reduces the cost to close our coal ash basins in the Carolinas for our customers, while delivering the same environmental benefits as full excavation,” said Stephen De May, North Carolina president, Duke Energy. “We are fully focused on these important activities and building a clean energy future for the Carolinas.”

Under the agreement, seven of the basins will be excavated and the ash moved to lined landfills. Those include two at the Allen Steam Station (Belmont, N.C.), one at Belews Creek Steam Station (Belews Creek, N.C.), one at Mayo Plant (Roxboro, N.C.), one basin at the Roxboro Plant (Semora, N.C.) and two at the Cliffside/Rogers Energy Complex (Mooresboro, N.C.). 

At the Marshall Steam Station (Terrell, N.C.) and the Roxboro Plant, uncapped basin ash will be excavated and moved to lined landfills. At both locations, sections of the basins were filled with ash in the past.

To make use of that space, state permitted facilities, including existing lined landfills, were built on top of those portions of the ash basins. Because the ash underneath is already covered, that material will not be disturbed and will be monitored and safely closed under other state regulations. 

Under the plan, almost 80 million tons of ash will be excavated from the remaining sites. The company is already removing ash from basins at other facilities, bringing the total amount of material to be excavated in North Carolina to approximately 124 million tons.

The agreement calls for expedited state permit approvals which would keep projects on a rapid timeline with excavation at the six sites completed in 10 to 15 years. 

This plan will reduce the total estimated cost to close the nine basins by about $1.5 billion, as compared to the April 1, 2019 NCDEQ order requiring full excavation. As a result, the estimated total undiscounted cost to permanently close all ash basins in the Carolinas is now approximately $8 billion to $9 billion, of which approximately $2.4 billion has been spent through 2019.