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Carolina judge approves Duke Energy plan for coal ash removal and basin closures

A North Carolina judge has approved an agreement for Duke Energy to close all of its remaining power plant coal ash basins in the state.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway puts into motion a consent order previously agreed to by Duke Energy, North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the Southern Environmental Law Center representing numerous community groups.

Under the order, Duke Energy will close six coal ash sites in the state and excavate close to 80 million tons stored from coal-fired power generation. The utility will have coal ash removed from the basins and into on-site lined landfills.

“We are very pleased to bring this matter to a close and fully focus on building the cleaner energy future our customers want and deserve,” reads the statement by Carolina-based Duke Energy. “The landmark agreement between Duke Energy, the environmental regulator and environmental community enjoys support across North Carolina and serves as a powerful example of what’s possible when we work together to protect people and the environment while managing costs.

The coal ash basins to be closed and excavated include Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro.

“Duke Energy Carolinas projects that will require until December 31, 2037 to complete all excavation (at Allen),” reads the consent order. Timelines for other excavation include 2028 at Cliffside/Rogers, 2031 at Belews Creek, 2034 at Marshall and 2035 at Buck Steam Station.

Last year, Duke agreed to pay a $156,000 penalty for polluting ground and surface waters with coal ash around three of its power plants at Allen, Marshall and Rogers, according to reports. Duke’s most recent sustainability report touts the company as having reduced carbon dioxide emissions 31 percent, sulfur dioxide 96 percent and nitrogen oxides by 74 percent since 2005. It also retrofitted two coal-fired units at Rogers to burn a combination of coal and natural gas.

It has retired more than a dozen coal-fired units since 2010 and has increased its carbon free portfolio (nuclear, solar and hydro) to 25 percent of the utility’s generation mix.

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