Duke Energy began delivery of coal ash to its Sutton Plant landfill last week after receiving approval from state regulators.
As of last 2015, there were 150 million tons of coal ash floating through North Carolina alone, and that state, the first to adopt a coal management act, generates another 4 million tons a year. Nationally the industry generates upward of 120 million tons annually.
But after problems with some the traditional method of disposing of coal ash in ponds, landfills are becoming bigger destinations for disposal of the material.
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“This is a big milestone,” said Danielle Peoples, a Duke spokeswoman, noting the landfill is crucial to Duke meeting a state-mandated 2019 coal ash cleanup deadline. DEQ gave approval last October to a similar facility at the Dan River facility in Eden.
As part of the permit process, DEQ conducted an environmental justice review and determined no one lives within a mile of the landfill site.
In a release, DEQ Secretary Michael Regan said, “The safety and well-being of people living near these coal ash ponds is a top priority. This permit requires that the landfill be constructed and operated with the current safeguards you would find for other landfills in North Carolina.”
Thursday’s decision comes about a month after Duke announced its intention to pursue an average rate hike of 14.9 percent, in part to pay for coal ash clean up. If the request is approved, the average residential customer, who uses about 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, would pay about $122.48 per month -- a monthly increase of about $17.80.