Under the Dome

Environmentalists try to block Chatham, Lee coal ash landfills

Environmental groups on Monday filed a legal challenge to block the permits that the state issued allowing Duke Energy to store coal ash in Chatham and Lee counties.

The groups filed a petition for a contested case against the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, saying the agency acted arbitrarily and capriciously. An administrative law judge will hear the case, which could end up in Superior Court.

Last month, DENR issued permits to allow a private company to begin constructing two landfills, which are expected to be ready to accept coal ash in the fall. The ash will come from Duke Energy’s Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly and the L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant in Wilmington.

The utility is looking for places to store the coal ash from its power plant sites across the state, to comply with a 2014 law requiring all the sites eventually be closed and their contents safely stored. Duke has more than 150 million tons of coal ash at 14 plants, which are contaminating groundwater.

The petition says allowing the landfills to be built will be harmful to people. It also says the landfills should be regulated as sold waste landfills and not mine reclamation projects.

The petition was filed by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump and EnvironmentaLEE.