Raleigh, N.C. — State regulators said Friday that they plan to use wastewater permits to force Duke Energy to clean up the coal ash ponds at three of its North Carolina power plants.
Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good said in a Wednesday letter to Gov. Pat McCrory and Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla that the utility plans move the ash from ponds at plants in Gaston County and Asheville to lined pits and is considering a similar move at its Wilmington plant.
DENR said it wants to ensure those actions are taken.
"Although Duke committed to near-term actions, the response lacked the detail necessary to ensure Duke Energy abides by the commitments outlined in their letter,” Skvarla said in a statement. “Reopening these permits allows DENR to ensure that Duke Energy resolves this long-standing issue at these facilities.”
Regulators will amend the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System wastewater discharge permits for the three plants, which allow the utility to discharge coal ash basin water from storage ponds into nearby waterways.
By law, Duke gets 60 days to respond to DENR's plan to amend the permits for the Gaston County and Wilmington plants. The Asheville permit was already up for renewal, and the public will have 45 days to comment on any proposed changes.
Skvarla said Thursday that DENR would "enforce stringent timelines for fulfillment and completion of Duke Energy’s obligations to protect public health and the environment." He was dissatisfied with the lack of detail in Good's letter regarding Duke's long-term plans for its coal ash ponds.
In addition to cleaning the ash ponds at the three plants, Good said Duke would remove the ash from its Eden plan, where a ruptured stormwater pipe dumped nearly 40,000 tons of ash into the Dan River last month.
The utility plans to have plans for handling the toxic ash at its other nine coal-fired plants in North Carolina by the end of the year, she said.