Sierra Club – North Carolina

“The Orton Foundation’s generous and stalwart support of the Sierra Club furthers our mission to protect our air, water, and climate from the dangerous fossil fuels that are threatening our families and communities. Their support provides additional resources to continue our work in North Carolina to fully advocate for strong federal and state protections to reduce toxic coal ash contamination, push for safe, clean energy jobs, and fight the health and environmental threats posed by the state’s remaining dirty coal plants.” – Mary Anne Hitt, Director, Beyond Coal Campaign

Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices, shows her hand covered with wet coal ash from the Dan River in 2014. Photo by Gerry Broome

Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices, shows her hand covered with wet coal ash from the Dan River in 2014. Photo by Gerry Broome

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has been fighting to protect communities and waterways from the harmful impacts of coal, including coal ash, for several years. The Campaign aims to retire one-third of the nation’s 500 coal plants by 2020 and replace the majority of these retired plants with clean energy solutions such as wind, solar, and geothermal. The Campaign has created a nationwide movement to end U.S. coal burning by addressing the issue on a state-by-state and utility-by-utility basis.

The Sierra Club in North Carolina was well positioned to respond rapidly in the days and weeks following the Dan River coal ash spill in February 2014. The organization worked closely with allies to shine a spotlight on this spill and secure comprehensive coal ash clean-up for all Duke Energy coal ash sites, including the coal ash pits at Duke Energy’s retired Sutton coal plant.

 In partnership with Louis Bacon and The Orton Foundation, The Sierra Club educated lawmakers, mobilized citizens, and ran advertisements calling for Duke Energy to remove coal ash from unlined pits adjacent to waterways at all 14 locations across the state. The organization worked with partners to deliver 9,000 petitions to Duke Energy, calling on the nation’s largest energy company to act immediately to protect North Carolina’s drinking water and take full responsibility for the costs of the coal ash spill and ongoing coal ash contamination across the state.

The Beyond Coal team, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, has fought for a positive ruling in state court, confirming that the state environmental agency has both the authority and the responsibility to remove the source of groundwater pollution—the coal ash ponds. The Sierra Club has also made significant gains in Clean Water Act enforcement cases at Sutton coal plant near Wilmington and at the Asheville coal plant in western North Carolina.

In 2015, Sierra Club worked with several of partners to secure comprehensive coal ash clean-up for all Duke Energy coal ash sites including Sutton, near Wilmington. Sierra Club insisted upon daily pollutant monitoring to protect the lake while the lagoons were emptied and enforce the daily limits on wastewater pumped from the coal ash lagoons into the Cape Fear River.

In 2016, Sierra Club worked with policy makers, grassroots organizers and local communities to ensure that coal plant operators pay the full cost of cleaning up their pollution; evaluate clean energy alternatives; and end coal’s threat to the environment and public health of North Carolina.

“Thanks to funding from The Orton Foundation, Sierra Club and our allies delivered an impactful message to Duke Energy and state regulators to remove its toxic coal ash from unlined pits beside our waterways and retire old, dirty coal plants. We are in a stronger place for getting solutions to the coal ash problem at Lake Sutton and across the state and are one step closer to securing more coal plant retirements because of this work.” – Kelly Martin, Sierra Club Senior Campaign Representative, NC and FL

Louis Bacon and The Orton Foundation support The Sierra Club and the Beyond Coal Campaign.
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