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Citizens Demand Coal-Ash Cleanup on Duke's Dime

Photo: Citizens gather Wednesday in front of Governor's Mansion in Raleigh. Courtesy: Progress NC
Photo: Citizens gather Wednesday in front of Governor's Mansion in Raleigh. Courtesy: Progress NC
March 6, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. - Coal ash continues to leak into the Dan River in northern North Carlina, and now the question is: who is going to pay for the clean-up? The answer, according to a group of North Carolina residents, should be Duke Energy. Wednesday members of that group of concerned citizens and watchdog organizations gathered in front of the Governor's Mansion in Raleigh to demand that the state take quick action and force Duke Energy to clean up the Dan River and the other remaining 32 coal-ash lagoons in the state.

Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, gave voice to that demand.

"Duke Energy really needs to be held accountable. It is their mess, they caused it. It would be very easy for them to just slough this off and make you and I pay for it, but that's really not right," Hall stated.

A poll released Wednesday by the NC League of Conservation Voters found that 93 percent of North Carolina voters want state lawmakers to force Duke Energy to clean up the Dan River. Also, the way lawmakers handle the spill could influence the next election, with 77 percent of those polled saying they're more likely to vote for a state lawmaker that "gets tough" on corporate polluters.

A representative of Duke Energy said the company will not be passing on the costs of the cleanup to its customers.

In recent days, reports surfaced that last June regulators at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources were told to focus on "customer service" - with the businesses in the state, rather than North Carolina residents, referred to as "the customers."

According to Bob Hall, Duke Energy and its stakeholders have given millions of dollars in campaign contributions to state lawmakers and political action committees.

"They've essentially bought protection from regulations," he charged. "That may have saved them money in the short run, they think, but here it is now, the chickens are coming home to roost."

Hall and others are also calling for Governor Pat McCrory to disclose his financial ties to Duke Energy, where he worked for 28 years until he retired in 2007.

Since the Dan River spill focused national attention on the state's coal ash pollution, seven of Duke Energy's power plants have been cited for storing coal waste improperly.

Poll results mentioned are at NCLCV.org.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC