Duke Energy protesters stage ‘die-in’ in uptown Charlotte

Duke Energy protest

Charlotte Environmental Action protests "conflict of interest" between Duke, McCrory on coal ash.
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Charlotte Environmental Action protests "conflict of interest" between Duke, McCrory on coal ash.

Activists staged a “die-in” outside Duke Energy’s headquarters Monday to protest what they called conflicts of interest between Gov. Pat McCrory and his former employer on coal ash issues.

McCrory’s administration last week disbanded the state’s Coal Ash Management Commission, which was to play an oversight role as risk classifications are applied to Duke’s ash ponds. The governor’s office says the state Supreme Court ruled the commission unconstitutional.

Hearings on classifications for the Allen power plant in Gaston County and Buck plant in Rowan County will be held Tuesday night.

State health officials have also rescinded don’t-drink advisories to private well owners near those power plants nearly a year after issuing them. Duke says its ash ponds are not the source of contaminants in the wells, but the state has not made its own determination.

Residents are suspicious of assurances their water is safe, said Nikola Taylor of Charlotte Environmental Action, “when they know very well nothing has changed with water, only with the (health) standards for the water.”

The group accused McCrory of intervening on behalf of Duke, his employer for 29 years, and disbanding “the only oversight DEQ had,” referring to the ash commission.

The Department of Environmental Quality, and McCrory’s office, said last week that an N.C. Supreme Court ruling in January “made it clear that the (ash) commission is an unconstitutional body that cannot take any action.”

McCrory’s office has denied his administration has been lax in policing Duke, saying his administration has taken more action on coal ash than any of his predecessors.

Duke, in response to the protest, said McCrory has not improperly used his influence to help the company.

The company repeated its position that contaminants in private wells are naturally occurring. In rescinding the don’t-drink advisories, Duke said, the state was consistent with health and safety standards applied in other parts of the country.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

Public meetings

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality will hold separate public meetings Tuesday on proposed risk classifications for ash ponds at two Charlotte-area power plants. The classifications will determine how and when the ponds will be closed.

The Allen power plant is in Belmont and the Buck plant is near Salisbury. Private well owners near the plants received large numbers of state don’t-drink advisories. Both meetings will start at 6 p.m.

Allen: Gaston College’s Dallas Campus in the Myers Center Multipurpose Auditorium, 201 U.S. 321 South, Dallas.

Buck: Catawba College’s Center for the Environment Building, Room 300, 2300 W. Innes St., Salisbury.