Coal Ash 101

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Coal-fired power plants burn coal to make steam, and the steam turns turbines to generate electricity. When that coal is burned, the inorganic matter in the coal becomes coal ash. For decades, utilities across the nation have stored that ash in basins.

Nonhazardous substance

Less than 1% of coal ash contains trace elements. Substances in ash are similar to those in soil and household garbage. Coal ash is regulated as a nonhazardous substance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Duke Energy has already transitioned most of its coal-fired units to store ash in dry, lined landfills and has multiple measures in place to safely manage the ash that is stored in basins until the basins are permanently closed.

EPRI Fact Sheet on Coal Ash and Human Health
Coal Ash: The Truth About Toxicity

A shared responsibility to build a smarter energy future 

For decades, reliable, affordable electricity was made possible by coal. With coal came coal ash – the byproduct of decades of generating electricity from this resource to meet customer energy needs.
We’re using science and engineering to responsibly manage this waste. And we’re working to recycle coal ash where we can, turning a waste into a benefit for the state and the economy. Today, we recycle more than 80% of the byproducts we produce at our coal plants. The cost of these services, including compliance with state and federal regulations that govern our work, is a responsibility we all share as consumers of electricity, so that the public and the environment are protected now and in the future.

It’s kind of like when you get the tires changed on your car. You might take your car to a shop to get it done. You don’t have to do the work. That’s what the experts are for. But when you pay your bill, there is a charge for the safe disposal of those tires. The shop is required to properly manage its waste to protect the environment, and the customer shares in those costs as part of its service. 
The same thing happens at an energy company. We have a plan for responsibly managing the waste produced from the generation of electricity from coal. But there is a cost for that service, to ensure the environment and public remain protected. And just like the tire shop, it’s a cost we include on customer bills as part of the reliable service Duke Energy provides every day to meet the energy needs of the communities we serve. 

Customers will never be asked to be pay for costs associated with the 2014 coal ash release at Dan River Steam Station or for any fines or penalties the company has incurred.
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