Duke Energy plays dirty without regulations

Duke Energy plays dirty without regulations

Dewey Mullis

Just four days after a Federal District Court ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to rule coal ash as either hazardous or nonhazardous, a ruptured pipe at a Duke Energy power plant flushed 82,000 tons of the toxic residue into the Dan River, according to the Charlotte Observer.

The amount of ash that leaked from the plant is enough to fill 32 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to Truth Out.

This spill will have detrimental effects on the Dan River community and should drive the EPA’s decision to rule ash as hazardous material. Duke Energy needs to be given a set of rules to play by other than their own.

What used to be a place for childlike fun has turned into a pool of slurry lifelessness. Many families bring their children to the river to play and swim.

“In Rockingham County, you go down to the Dan River,” Matt Wasson, director of Programs for Appalachian Voices, said. “It’s like here, you go to the Watauga River. Everyone who lived in places like this knows the value of those local rivers. It’s where you go to fish, hang out and it’s where the wildlife that you appreciate are getting their water.”

Duke Energy has been operating seemingly unregulated, according to Truth Out. They have been dumping ash in open-air ponds for 50 years, and this isn’t their first spill.

The political pull of Duke Energy is very problematic and concerning to environmental groups.

Given Gov. Pat McCrory’s previous employment with Duke Energy, there is great concern that, if the EPA decides that ash is hazardous, the pushback will be enormous. It would be very easy for Duke Energy, one of the state’s largest lobbyist, to put pressure on McCrory, Wasson said.

The EPA has until Dec. 19 to formulate a decision, according to the Charlotte Observer. They can either rule ash as hazardous material and demand immediate actions to move the waste, or they can allow the states to conduct a five-year plan to phase out current disposal practices.

It is necessary for the EPA to let science lead the way in decision-making. A hazardous waste classification from the federal government would restrict Duke’s state-level political power.

If not, there would be less oversight to ensure that utility’s are making adequate progress in removing the toxic ash.

There are plenty of options available to store the residue, and it wouldn’t require any new technology. It is as simple as placing a liner in a hazardous waste landfill and moving it away from our natural resources, Wasson said.

Even with a five-year plan, Duke has enough political presence to continue playing by their own set of rules. The environment that all life depends on is in desperate need of this victory against toxic coal ash and its producers.

“There is an economic impact for places such as the Dan River where people come to enjoy the outdoors, but there is also a cultural impact that you are compromising some of the most important natural resources for the people who live there,” Wasson said. “And you can’t put a price on it. Good citizenship requires being connected to and accountable for our footprint on this planet.”

 Dewey Mullis, a junior criminal justice major from Wallburg, is an opinion writer.