| RALEIGH, N.C., March 26
RALEIGH, N.C., March 26 Duke Energy Corp said on
Wednesday it will move coal ash from three plants and speed up
the closure of an additional basin as the company comes under
increased scrutiny after a massive spill in North Carolina
contaminated a river used for drinking water.
In a letter to the state's utilities commission and
legislators, Chief Executive Officer Lynn Good said Duke, the
country's largest electric-power provider, will move wet coal
ash to lined landfills from retired plants on the Dan and
Ash will also be moved from an active plant in Asheville,
and remaining units there will either be closed down or
converted to dry-ash storage.
Coal ash, a byproduct of coal-based energy production,
contains heavy metals that can contaminate drinking water and
Oversight of Duke's storage sites has intensified since a
spill on Feb. 2 released 39,000 tons of coal ash sludge into the
Dan River, a source of drinking water for several Virginia
Last week, a federal grand jury convened in Raleigh as part
of a probe into the company's handling of coal ash.
Federal prosecutors are also investigating the state
environmental regulator, the Department of the Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR), for its handling of Duke's coal-ash
ponds in the state, which it admits are contaminating
Earlier this month a judge ordered Duke to immediately clean
up the coal-ash ponds as part of a separate state lawsuit filed
by environmental groups last year. A settlement proposed by DENR
and decried by environmentalists as too lenient was dropped by
the state last week.
Governor Pat McCrory, a former Duke executive, has implored
the company to do more to clean up the ponds.
Good said in the letter that the moves are part of a
"disciplined, fact-based approach to evaluating long-term
solutions" to coal-ash storage.
She said all of Duke's coal-ash sites are being reviewed
both by an internal task force and outside experts who will
report back by the end of May.
The company will have plans in place to secure ash basins at
the rest of its seven retired plants by the end of the year,
"It is good to see the utility becoming publicly responsive
to the situation," DENR spokesman Jamie Kritzer said in a
written statement responding to Wednesday's announcement.
Attorney Frank Holleman of the Southern Environmental Law
Center was more skeptical.
"Duke has yet to make it clear what it is going to do for
the other 11 communities (in North Carolina) that are still
faced with the possibility of a catastrophe," he said.
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Prudence Crowther)