Done deal on coal ash?

From an editorial Monday in the Fayetteville Observer:

Duke Energy faces problems with its coal-ash storage ponds across North Carolina and has mandates from the state to clean up at least four of them.

Duke recently announced plans to use open pits left over from clay-mining in Lee and Chatham counties to hold much of the ash from two of those sites.

The plans sound somewhat reasonable, but state regulators should move judiciously in considering approval.

The entire arrangement requires an OK from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which is not officially a wholly owned subsidiary of Duke Energy. In theory, DENR should be able to reject the plan, or add requirements that might not sit well with Duke.

But the day before the plan was announced and submitted to regulators, Duke’s Kentucky-based contractor paid $3.5 million for the 412-acre landfill site.

“Obviously, it was a done deal, and that’s very concerning for something of this magnitude,” said Lee County Manager John Crumpton.

The state needs to prove otherwise with a transparent and convincing job of vetting Duke’s plan. If it is approved, DENR should mandate rigorous monitoring safeguards to protect the health of nearby residents.