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Progress in ash management

World Coal,

Duke Energy has released a statement praising itself for acting quickly and meeting deadlines to comply with new North Carolina policy for the management of coal ash and the closure of ash basins.

The issue of coal ash management was highlighted this year when Duke Energy had an ash spill on the banks of the Dan River in North Carolina. It was the third largest such spill in US history.

John Elnitsky, senior vice president of ash strategy, updated North Carolina legislators Wednesday on the company's progress to meet the requirements detailed in state directives and the new Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA).

"We are continuing our strong commitment to the safety of the environment and the communities we serve," Elnitsky said before the North Carolina Environmental Review Commission. "To give you a sense of the scope of this, our work will touch every facility, requiring system modifications at every facility, permit modifications at every facility" in order to implement CAMA.

In addition to accelerating its ash basin closure planning across its fleet, the company said it had met aggressive state deadlines to file groundwater assessment plans, updated permit applications for all 14 North Carolina facilities and submitted phase one excavation plans for four sites designated in the law for closure by 2019.

"We are meeting our requirements and are in a good posture […] What I'm most excited about is that we're ready to move forward at the four sites that are high priorities as soon as we have the necessary permits," Elnitsky said. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources must approve the projects before work can begin.

The company also has initiated engineering work for potential plant conversions to improve ongoing ash management with additional dry ash handling systems that are required by 2018 and 2019.

Elnitsky described the company's guiding principles as it plans for site-specific closure decisions. This includes ensuring the safety of ash storage areas, mitigating groundwater impacts and leveraging on-site landfills when excavation is required.

"At the end of it all, the balancing act we need to strike is seeking solutions […] that consider environmental impact and stakeholder interests," he said. "Balancing those impacts against the benefits we get is important as we approach closure strategies going forward."

Legislators expressed interest in the beneficial reuse of ash, particularly in its ability to be safely incorporated into concrete production. Elnitsky noted the company is exploring opportunities to enhance reuse of newly produced ash to satisfy market demand, including issuing a request for proposals to study the market; however, that would not "make a dent" in the ash already stored in basins.

Elnitsky also detailed ongoing engineering work, industry benchmarking, and the independent advisory board of experts who are providing counsel and perspective to the company.

Adapted from press release by Sam Dodson

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