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Groups ask to join Duke Energy ash lawsuits

Seven environmental groups filed requests Wednesday to join state lawsuits against Duke Energy over coal-ash pollution.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources sued Duke last year, saying ash stored in open lagoons at power plants across the state pose risks to public health and safety.

The state took legal action after environmental groups threatened to sue Duke on their own.

Duke and the environment agency proposed settlements regarding ash at Duke’s Riverbend power plant west of Charlotte and its Asheville plant. The settlement has not been accepted by a judge.

Environmental groups protested settlement terms they said were too lenient. The court allowed them to become formal parties to lawsuits over the Riverbend, Asheville, Marshall (on Lake Norman), Allen (on Lake Wylie) and Sutton (near Wilmington) plants, giving them a voice in settlement terms.

Duke says it has “no indication” its ash has contaminated groundwater that poses a risk to neighbors of its plants.

The seven groups that filed papers Wednesday want to join state lawsuits naming six more Duke plants: Buck, near Salisbury; Cliffside, near Shelby; Weatherspoon, near Lumberton; Lee, near Goldsboro; Cape Fear, in Chatham County; and Belews Creek near Winston-Salem.

The groups are the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, Cape Fear River Watch, Appalachian Voices, Western North Carolina Alliance, Winyah Rivers Foundation and Waterkeeper Alliance.

Previous lawsuits filed by Charlotte’s Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and the Winyah Rivers Foundation ended in settlements in which S.C. Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper agreed to remove ash from power plants in South Carolina.

Henderson: 704-358-5051; Twitter: @bhender
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