Coal Ash Wednesday: Importing 150,000 tons of ash from India?


Try to wrap your mind around this one:

As Duke Energy continues a state-ordered cleanup of millions of tons of potentially toxic coal ash, an Ohio company won approval Tuesday to store even more ash imported from India in North Carolina.

The Council of State on Tuesday approved a two-year warehouse lease with Spartan to store 150,000 tons of fly ash imported from India at the state port in Morehead City. Spartan officials couldn’t be reached Tuesday, but a North Carolina Ports official said the ash will go to concrete plants.

That's right, coal-fired power plants in our state, mostly owned by Duke Energy, have been creating over 5 million tons of ash for decades, yet we (apparently) still need to import more of that crap to satisfy the needs of concrete manufacturers. Why? Because it's probably slightly cheaper for Duke Energy to dump it in the ground, or leave it in the ground, so it can pollute our water. And instead of selling more of that surplus(?) ash to concrete people, they are poised to make a shitload of money off ratepayers for moving it or capping it in place. For cleaning up their own mess. This is what we get for placing Duke Energy's profit margin at the top of our regulatory oversight:

Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert said processing and transportation costs play roles in how it markets ash. Federal standards that require cleaner air emissions from its power plants can also make ash less usable in concrete, she said.

The 35 percent of ash Duke recycles each year, combined with the output of the three new processing plants, will likely exceed the amount of new ash Duke produces within three years, Culbert said.

Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins said Duke’s plan to leave ash in basins at six power plants, drained of water and capped, risks the health of nearby residents and wastes productive use of the ash.

“When we’re talking about new contracts to bring in coal ash from halfway around the world, I think it’s clear that we have unmet demand for the coal ash that’s still here,” Perkins said. The ash that Duke plans to leave in place at the Allen power plant in Gaston County, he said, could instead be used in concrete for upcoming construction projects in the area.

Bolding mine, because the very idea they're allowed to "market" this crap, instead of being forced to recycle every little bit that might be used in relatively safe methods or products, is so absurd I don't even know where to begin. And the part about transportation costs? Seriously? We're bringing in ash from the other side of the world, and you have the gall to whine about moving it 75 miles or so?

When the Utilities Commission has their next meeting to hear arguments about that massive rate increase to cover coal ash disposal costs, the lost revenue from this concrete debacle needs to be front and center. Have them try to explain why taking money from us (ratepayers) is more responsible than selling that ash so it could be safely sequestered in a bridge structure.