The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

February 17, 2014

Time for Duke to clean things up

Monday, February 17, 2014 — RALEIGH – In a 1958 company history of Carolina Power & Light Co., photos show governors Melville Broughton, Kerr Scott and Luther Hodges standing among company executives as the power plants of the 1940s and 1950s came on line.

On page after page, the coal-fired steam plants built during the period are portrayed not as simple stone and metal structures pumping out electrical current. They are monuments of human achievement, pushing and powering wide swaths of North Carolina into the modern world.

Seventy years later, CP&L’s successor firms, first Progress Energy and now Duke Energy, have mothballed many of the plants built during that period, replacing them with cleaner-burning and more efficient natural gas plants.

What Duke Energy has not done, as a part of those plant closings, is dispose of the coal ash that sits in reservoirs, some of them dozens of acres, around the plants.

This week, the worst predictions of environmental groups, which have been pushing the company to clean the ash ponds and dispose of the stuff in lined landfills, came true.

A stormwater pipe running under one of the ash ponds at the Dan River Steam Station, built by Duke Power in 1948 and closed in 2012, ruptured, causing water carrying the coal ash to pour into the nearby river.

The winter brown of the Dan River turned gray as it flowed northeast of  the Rockingham County town of Eden.

Duke Energy said between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of the ash, which contains toxic metals, flowed into the river. Four days after the rupture, the company was still attempting to completely shut off the flow.

About six miles downstream, Danville, Va., gets its drinking water from the Dan River. Further downstream, the river flows into Kerr Lake.

Duke Energy, state officials and environmental groups were still testing the water on Thursday. A full tally of the environmental damage probably won’t be known for months.

The Dan River plant is not unique.

Duke Energy continues to operate six coal-fired plants in North Carolina. It and its pre-merger partner Progress Energy have closed another seven plants in recent years. All sit on either rivers or lakes created by the companies by damming rivers. All have coal ash ponds.

Duke officials should recognize that the writing is on the wall.

As it has in South Carolina, the company needs to settle a lawsuit brought by the state at the behest of environmental groups like the Southern Environmental Law Center. Duke officials should agree to clean up the ponds and dispose of the ash in lined landfills.

In a time when astounding feats of human achievement occur mostly unseen in labs or on computer screens, it is easy to forget how impressive the initial electrical powering of our state was by utilities like Duke, CP&L and their smaller predecessors.

Duke does not need to tarnish that legacy by needlessly allowing more environmental damage.

Scott Mooneyham is a syndicated columnist for Capitol Press Association and covers activities of the N.C. Legislature.

1
Text Only
Opinion & Letters to the Editor
  • Brent Laurenz Special election adds to the mix

    RALEIGH – A busy slate of judicial elections this November got even busier recently when Judge John Martin of the N.C. Court of Appeals announced his retirement.
    A special statewide election to fill Martin’s seat will be added to the general election ballot, joining the four N.C. Supreme Court seats and three N.C. Court of Appeals races already slated for this fall.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Fake news or sign of some more trouble?

    RALEIGH – Of the three situations I can recall where agencies receiving large sums of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t divulge employees’ salaries, two of them ended badly. The third – involving a group of charter schools in Southeastern North Carolina – is playing out right now.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    WASHINGTON - The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65.

    July 23, 2014

  • D.G. Martin Where did all these new voters in North Carolina come from?

    “Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”
    So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon Some light for Dems in their time of darkness

    RALEIGH – Earlier this year, state Sen. Ben Clark, a Hoke County Democrat, became a hero for a day among his party and environmentalists when his amendment to require more well water testing near future fracking sites passed the Senate. It even gained the support of a number of GOP senators, against the wishes of the Republican bill sponsor.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Maintaining hope

    Gardeners are facing challenges with the weather this year. It seemed like we were getting great conditions in April and May. The weather was warm and we were getting some good rains. Then sometime in June the rain stopped. It got so dry that I didn’t have to cut the grass. While I enjoyed the break, the garden was not happy at all. I was having to water quite a bit to keep the vegetable garden alive and growing.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd I may be a bit behind the times, but at least I can find ‘America’

    I seem to be reading about and dealing with technology a lot lately.
    I  love technology and have always been fascinated by gadgets of all kinds and the wonderful things they can do. You never seem to go through an entire day without some form of invention enhancing your life.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Meeting out in open helps negotiations move ahead

    RALEIGH – State lawmakers reconvened in Raleigh on May 14 promising a brief legislative session this summer, but as July moves along they are still in town and tackling big issues.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content