Statewide and Eastern North Carolina: Bobby Jones (919) 394-0727
Western North Carolina: Jeri Cruz-Segarra (828) 651-9576
Charlotte Area: Amy Brown (704) 301-6209
Winston-Salem Area: David Hairston (336) 655- 3413, Caroline Armijo (919) 358-5057
An alliance of North Carolinians directly impacted or threatened by Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution today released its Unifying Principles demanding that Duke Energy and state decision makers work closely with North Carolina communities to ensure they are compensated for damages to their property and health and protected from future harm. The release comes just days after the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality proposed delayed cleanup of 24 of Duke’s coal ash ponds by downgrading their risk classifications.
The Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT) Against Coal Ash formed in July as a way for residents from across the state to connect in solidarity in their demands for an end to the coal ash crisis. Members were appalled and confused last week when DEQ downgraded coal ash sites that as recently as December the agency’s staff had ranked as high priority. The proposed low or low-intermediate status means the sites could potentially be capped in place and left indefinitely to leak toxins into neighboring groundwater supplies.
“It’s an established fact that all sites are leaking, so of course they should be listed as high priority,” says Deborah Graham, who lives near the Buck plant in Salisbury. “We know more than we ever wanted to know about the damage this toxic waste causes to our environment and health each and every day it continues to sit there.”
“DEQ changing our priority from high to low-intermediate is just wrong,” says Debra Baker, who lives within 100 feet of the G.G. Allen plant in Belmont. “DEQ says they did not have enough information from Duke Energy, but they have had several months. Now, we are still living on bottled water, waiting for this mess to be cleaned up.”
To urgently address the realities of coal ash pollution, ACT Against Coal Ash released its Unifying Principles so that state decision makers, Duke Energy, and the public can better understand the needs and demands of residents most harmed — now or in the future — by Duke’s coal ash pollution.
The principles, which were agreed upon by hundreds of residents living next to Duke’s existing and proposed coal ash sites, state that all sites should be high priority, that no site should be capped in place, and that coal ash should not be dumped onto other communities. The alliance demands a transparent, honest decision-making process about coal ash cleanup that directly responds to the concerns of residents most impacted by the toxic pollution and that results in the full compensation –– paid for by Duke’s shareholders –– of all past, present, and future harms caused by the utility’s coal ash. The alliance also demands that North Carolina decision makers and Duke Energy think more creatively about how to remediate coal ash sites and work toward a clean energy future. The principles also call on Duke Energy to retain liability of its coal ash, not simply transfer it to hastily planned off-site landfills.
“At this point, Duke Energy and the state are thinking more about profit than the health and well-being of people that actually live in the communities next to Duke’s plants,” says David Hairston, a resident of the Walnut Tree community near the Belews Creek power plant. “They need to come to the communities that are actually affected and see what the living situations are like.”
“We are suffering the dumping of 12 million tons of coal ash on our community,” says Judy Hogan, president of Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump and resident of Moncure which has been identified as a “receiving” community for excavated coal ash. “There are multiple ways toxic coal ash can get into our air and water and shorten our lives. Our state government has forgotten that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not to mention clean air and water.”
Across the state, Duke’s neighbors tell similar stories of the coal ash that used to fall from the sky like snow, landing on their homes, gardens, and families. Now, hundreds of Duke’s neighbors have contaminated drinking water wells and homes they cannot sell.
“Being a part of ACT Against Coal Ash has helped us realize that we have all directly or indirectly experienced contaminated water, having to witness family, friends, and neighbors get sick and even die, and feeling the helplessness of having to face a power giant alone,” says Bobby Jones, a leader of the Down East Coal Ash Coalition in Goldsboro, near the H.F. Lee plant. “You cannot imagine the magnitude of stress, isolation, and desperation that comes from receiving a do-not-drink letter or watching your neighbors die young from cancer.”
ADDITIONAL CITIZEN STATEMENTS:
Jeri Cruz-Segarra of Arden, who lives near the Asheville plant. “I’m just counting all the people I know around me who’ve gotten sick with cancer and have passed away. Duke should take responsibility and pay for the costs of cleaning up coal ash at all sites that have been affected by its leaking coal ash, not pass the costs on to its customers.”
Debra Baker, whose husband died from environmentally related lung disease several years after moving into their home next to G.G. Allen, which has been illegally polluting the air for decades: “We were lied to when we bought our property. We were told that there weren’t any problems with the plant because it was monitored, and we believed that. We were told that Duke cared about its neighbors, but there have been four deaths on our road in the last seven months.”
Amy Brown, a Belmont resident whose community is contaminated by hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen that is usually associated with industrial pollution. “Anything known to cause cancer shouldn’t be anything less than high priority.”
Caroline Armijo grew up near the Belews Creek power plant and has been active in coal ash work for a decade: “I am disappointed that DEQ and appointed higher-ups overlooked their own staff’s recommendations based on the science of what is best for our health and our water sources by playing politics. Not only is DEQ ignoring our fundamental rights of clean water and optimal health, but it’s neglecting to embrace the future of clean energy, an industry in which North Carolina has excelled over the last decade.”