Duke Energy to build lined coal ash landfills at Dan River, Sutton power plants

 Duke Energy to build lined coal ash landfills at Dan River, Sutton power plants

Caption: Dan River Steam Station

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) announced plans to submit permits to construct lined onsite landfills at the Dan River Steam Station and the Sutton Plant in North Carolina to provide a permanent storage solution for more than 6 million tons of coal ash. The landfills are in addition to off-site solutions that the utility submitted to regulators — in November 2014 — for more than 3 million tons of ash at the plants.

"This plan is a significant step forward in our strategy to close ash basins and manage coal ash across our service area," said John Elnitsky, Duke Energy senior vice president of ash basin strategy. "Our preference is to store coal ash at or near our plant sites, when possible. Siting these landfills on plant property minimizes impacts to the local community while maximizing the safe and efficient storage of coal ash at these locations."

Coal ash will be stored dry in the landfills with layers of lining installed atop of the landfill - effectively containing the ash and separating it from soil and groundwater. Additionally, groundwater monitoring will ensure the landfills operate as designed and the environment remains protected.

The Dan River Steam Station, which was retired in 2012, is one of four coal-fired power plants identified as high priority under the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014. Under the law, all ash in basins at the site must be excavated and stored in a lined landfill or lined structural fill by August 2019. Approximately 2.6 million tons of coal ash are stored at the Dan River Steam Station. Construction of the landfill is expected to begin in 2016, pending necessary regulatory approvals. Landfill operations are scheduled to commence in the first half of 2017.

Sutton Plant ceased coal operations in 2013, when a 625-MW natural gas-fired combined cycle unit began operation at the site. The plant, which contains approximately 7.2 million tons of coal ash, is also one of the four high-priority sites.

"We must begin moving coal ash as soon as possible in order to comply with the strict timelines laid out in state law,” Elnitsky said. "That's why the Chatham County mine project is such an important part of our strategy for the Sutton Plant. We are in discussions with Chatham County leaders now and hope to begin delivering ash to this project soon, even as we develop an on-site landfill for Sutton."

The first of the Sutton Plant landfill permits will be submitted to North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) in May, with construction of the landfill expected to begin in early 2016. Landfill operations are scheduled to commence in late 2016.

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