Judge lets more advocates join NC-Duke lawsuits

A Superior Court judge says 10 more environmental and energy advocacy groups can become parties to North Carolina’s lawsuits against Duke Energy over coal ash contamination.

Judge Paul Ridgeway’s orders expand the number of advocates who will be allowed a say in any settlement of the four lawsuits.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources filed the actions last year after environmental groups gave notice they would sue Duke.

Ridgeway had previously allowed the Charlotte-based Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation to become a party to litigation involving Duke’s Riverbend, Allen and Marshall power plants near Charlotte.

The Sierra Club had been allowed to join state lawsuits over the Asheville power plant and the Sutton plant in Wilmington.

DENR withdrew a proposed settlement with Duke in the Riverbend and Asheville cases after a ruptured pipe spilled tons of ash into the Dan River in February. The settlement had been criticized during a public comment period as too lenient.

The judge has now allowed 10 other groups to intervene, the Southern Environmental Law Center said Tuesday.

Those parties include Cape Fear River Watch, the Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation, the Western North Carolina Alliance, the Winyah Rivers Foundation, the Yadkin Riverkeeper, Appalachian Voices, the Waterkeeper Alliance, the Dan River Basin Association, the Roanoke River Basin Association and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The groups will become formal parties to litigation, allowing them to seek information from Duke about its Dan River, Buck, Cliffside, Weatherspoon, Lee, Cape Fear and Belews Creek power plants.