State will appeal coal ash ruling

North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission said Monday it will appeal a judge’s ruling that “immediate action” be taken on groundwater contamination from coal ash.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway made the ruling last month in reversing the state commission.

The commission had concluded that groundwater violations require a “reasonable amount of time” to correct. It quoted advice given by lawyers at the N.C. Department of Justice.

The issue took on greater urgency following Duke Energy’s Feb. 2 spill of up to 39,000 tons of ash into the Dan River.

Advocates hope to use Ridgeway’s ruling to bolster their argument that Duke should clean up its 33 ash ponds in the state.

D.J. Gerken, a lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the state is giving away its authority to force Duke to act by appealing Ridgeway’s ruling.

“If the state is serious about enforcing the law, why in the world would the state ask the (N.C.) Court of Appeals to limit that authority?” he said.

A N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.

Duke said last week that it would also appeal Ridgeway’s ruling.

DENR has asked to withdraw a proposed agreement with Duke to settle fouor lawsuits over ash contamination that the state filed against Duke. Ridgeway is presiding over those lawsuits too.

This article was modified April 8 to correct that the state Environmental Management Commission, not DENR, filed notice of appeal.