Duke lays out plan for coal ash removal in North Carolina

Source:Duke Energy

Duke Energy has submitted coal ash excavation plans for Asheville, Dan River, Riverbend and Sutton facilities to state regulators for approval

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) has announced another major milestone in its plan to permanently close coal ash basins and safely store coal ash generated from its North Carolina coal-fired power plants.

The company submitted detailed coal ash excavation plans to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) for ash stored at the high-priority Asheville Steam Electric Plant, Dan River Steam Station (Eden), Riverbend Steam Station (Mount Holly) and L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant (Wilmington) facilities.

These plans and all associated permits must be approved by NC DENR before any excavation work can begin. Under North Carolina's Coal Ash Management Act, all basins at those sites must be closed by Aug. 1, 2019.

"This milestone reflects Duke Energy's commitment to moving forward as quickly as practicable in a safe and environmentally sound way to address the enormous task of long-term coal ash storage in North Carolina," said Lynn Good, president and chief executive officer of Duke Energy. "We are devoted to being good neighbors to the communities we serve and good custodians of our shared environment."

The excavation plans announced today describe a phased approach that enables the company to begin moving ash from the sites even as additional long-term solutions are developed.

The plans detail the proposed amount of ash being moved in the first phase, its destination, how it will be transported, safety and environmental protection measures and permits required.

The plans also outline work to identify solutions for the remaining ash at each location and will be updated and submitted to NC DENR annually or earlier as required by subsequent phases.

"We think these excavation plans go beyond the specific information requested by the state, demonstrating our commitment to closing ash basins in a way that continues to protect the environment, minimizes the impact to neighboring communities and complies with North Carolina's new coal ash management policies," explained John Elnitsky, Duke Energy's senior vice president of ash basin strategy. "We are prepared to proceed as soon as we have the necessary approvals from the state."

Excavation plans for ash at each of the four high-priority facilities are site-specific.

"The initial work at these facilities will help us assess various approaches for the closure plans at our remaining 10 North Carolina facilities," said Elnitsky.

During the initial phase of work, the company plans to move approximately 5.1 million tons of ash from the four sites, representing approximately 30 percent of the total ash stored there, within 12 to 18 months following approvals and permits from NC DENR.

As part of Duke Energy's commitment to recycle coal ash when it can, the ash removed from three of the four sites in Phase 1 will be beneficially reused in engineered structural fill projects. These include the ongoing structural fill project at the Asheville Regional Airport and two new projects to be developed at open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties.

In such fill projects, the ash is contained using specially engineered synthetic liners, and sites are subject to strict groundwater monitoring standards set by state regulators.

Using these open-pit clay mines from the brick industry as the location for the engineered fills has several advantages, including the reclamation of previously unusable land and faster development timelines than siting a new off-site landfill. They also provide deep layers of impervious clay that add environmental protections and existing access to railroads.

Where possible, trains will be used to transport ash to limit the number of trucks on state roadways.

In addition, these projects are expected to create approximately 100 jobs in Chatham and Lee counties as well as increase the tax base.

These mine reclamation projects will comply with the requirements set forth in the Coal Ash Management Act. 

Phase 1 also includes a plan for the Roanoke Cement Company to use thousands of tons of ash in the creation of concrete. Additional ash excavated during Phase 1 will be permanently stored in an existing Jetersville, Va., lined landfill.

Phase 1 includes moving ash from multiple locations at the sites. While much of the public focus has been on closing ash basins, the company's planning has been comprehensive and will ensure all ash at the sites is properly addressed for long-term storage.

For clarity, the company has updated its official statistics to reflect ash currently stored inside and out of basins at our facilities in North Carolina. In addition to the 108 million tons of ash in basins across the state, approximately 30 million tons is in landfills and 14 million tons is in other locations on plant property, such as structural fills or dry ash stacks.

In addition to filing excavation plans for the first four sites, the company has met aggressive state deadlines to file groundwater assessment plans, well water receptor surveys and updated permit applications for all 14 of its North Carolina facilities in order to begin the review and approval process.

As previously announced, Duke has established a national advisory panel of independent experts in partnership with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that will provide counsel on permanent coal ash storage solutions for all of its facilities. The company also has created a dedicated, in-house organization to rigorously manage all of its coal ash operations. 

More information on Duke Energy's coal ash management operations, including the site excavation plans, fact sheets and the updated coal ash metrics chart can be found here: Duke Energy Ash Management

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