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North Carolina Representative John Fraley speaks during a January information session on the closure of the coal ash pond at the Marshall Steam Station at Sherrills Ford Elementary School.

A judge decided in favor of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality regarding Duke Energy’s appeal of the department’s coal ash basin closure decision, a news release from the department stated.

The DEQ release said, on Friday, the judge approved a partial motion to dismiss. Therefore, Duke’s claims that the DEQ didn’t correctly choose how the basins should be closed; that the DEQ shouldn’t have made a decision before the closure plans were submitted; that the DEQ’s standards in making the decision were incorrect; and the DEQ’s closure timeline, Dec. 31, 2029, was incorrect will no longer be included in the appeal.

On April 1, the department announced that Duke would close the remaining unlined coal ash basins in North Carolina by removing all the coal ash and relocating it to a lined landfill.

Duke appealed the decision April 26, saying the department had made a decision without the corrective action plans which would reduce contamination. The corrective action plans are due in December even when the coal ash will be completely removed.

“I am very pleased with the judge’s ruling. It confirms that DEQ has the authority to select the method of closure for coal ash impoundments,” said DEQ Secretary Michael Regan. “DEQ stands by its determination that the best way to protect public health, communities and the environment is to excavate coal ash impoundments across the state. We will continue to defend that decision as this appeal moves forward.”

According to a Duke news release, removing all of the coal ash is the most extreme measure. It would increase cost and take longer than any of the other options.

"While we are disappointed in the ruling on this issue, we will proceed with the appeal, standing firm in our belief that the NCDEQ decision is wrong, not based in science and engineering – and not in the best interest of our customers and communities," Duke's release stated.  

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