USA: Court Grants Conservation Groups Participation in NC Coal Ash Cases
The North Carolina Superior Court has granted requests filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center that conservation groups from across North Carolina participate as full parties in the pending enforcement actions brought by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources against Duke Energy for illegal coal ash pollution of the state’s rivers, groundwater, and drinking water reservoirs.
DENR brought the enforcement actions in response to a Clean Water Act notice sent by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Sierra Club.
“It’s essential that local community groups be full parties in the enforcement actions to ensure that Duke Energy’s illegal coal ash pollution is cleaned up and that the coal ash is moved to safe, dry storage in lined landfills away from our waterways,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We’ve learned the hard way that the people of North Carolina cannot count on DENR to enforce the laws and keep our waters clean without strong pressure from conservation groups.”
The court ordered that these conservation groups may participate as full parties in the enforcement proceedings: Cape Fear River Watch, the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, the Western North Carolina Alliance, the Winyah Rivers Foundation, Yadkin Riverkeeper, Appalachian Voices, Waterkeeper Alliance, the Dan River Basin Association, the Roanoke River Basin Association, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The court previously ordered that the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and the Sierra Club may participate as full parties in the litigation.
In February, Duke spilled tens of millions of gallons of coal ash and polluted wastewater into the Dan River. In March, DENR abandoned its proposed settlement of pending enforcement actions. In April, the state court ruled that conservation groups can obtain documents and other information from Duke, denying a request from Duke to either prevent such requests entirely or keep the information secret.
The groups just admitted to the case will be able to seek information from Duke about all the sites they represent.
Press Release, May 7, 2014