Environment

After another legal setback, Charah will ask state appellate court for temporary stay in coal ash disposal suit

A map of the Brickhaven mine, where coal ash is being disposed. (Map: Chatham County)

For a second time, Chatham County Superior Court Judge Carl Fox told Charah to talk to the hand.

Fox yesterday rejected Charah’s request for a stay of his original order to stop disposing coal ash in parts of the Brickhaven mine while the case wends through the higher courts.

Charah, the Kentucky-based coal ash disposal company, is “immediately” seeking a temporary stay from the state Court of Appeals, said Scott Sewell, Charah’s chief operating officer.

The company can still place coal ash in formerly excavated parts of the mine, which is near Moncure. Although the current order “does not have an immediate impact on the placement of coal ash at Brickhaven,” Sewell said, the company plans to also request a permanent stay.

Earlier this month, Charah had petitioned the Chatham County court for a stay, asserting that the company would lose tens of millions of dollars and suffer “irreparable” harm to its reputation if it couldn’t continue to dispose coal ash in new parts of the Brickhaven mine.

In the petition, Sewell told the court that “Charah has a long relationship with Duke, which will suffer irreparable harm if the order is not stayed.”

However, Duke Energy seemed unfazed by the ruling. “We do not anticipate any immediate impacts to those plans and our vendor, Charah, continues to receive ash at the site,” said Jeff Brooks, Duke Energy spokesman.

The ash comes from Duke Energy’s Riverbend and Sutton plants. The impoundments at those plants must be excavated and closed by December 2019.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump and Environmentalee had filed a contested case with the Office of Administrative Hearings against the NC Department of Environmental Quality in July 2015.  Judge Melissa Lassiter dismissed the case, and the complainants appealed to Chatham County Superior Court.

On March 31, Fox ruled that two newly excavated parts of the mine were tantamount to landfills, not structural fill areas, and that state environmental regulators had improperly issued permits to Charah.

Structural fill cells are abandoned areas that had already been excavated by the mining company; they can accept coal ash waste under the permit. However, landfills require a different permit for that material. In both cases, the disposal areas must be lined.

DEQ and the state attorney general’s office then took the case to the state appellate court. The has not yet appeared on the court’s calendar.

“We are encouraged that Judge Fox’s March 31st ruling remains in place while Charah and DEQ pursue their appeal,” said Therese Vick, coal ash coordinator for BREDL. “It is time for DEQ to be sure that Charah complies with his order immediately. This must be done in a transparent way. We are watching.”

One Comment


  1. keely

    May 18, 2017 at 9:06 am

    This is a common sense court ruling. This was never a mine reclamation, and Judge Fox understood this right away. There are 30 + other retired clay mines that might be looked at, spreading PCB’s, arsenic, heavy metals across the state , poisoning even more residents. There are altenatives, and Duke should keep it on their own properties with encapsulations.

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