UPDATED! NC: Public hearings and free film screenings, dates and details


Whoa! North Carolina has a full coal-ash calendar right now, beginning with the launch of Working Films’ statewide “Coal Ash Stories” film screening tour on Wed., Feb. 24. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality will host its own statewide tour, beginning March 1, 2016, where citizens can submit public comments regarding the department’s priority rankings for coal-ash waste dumps located across the state near Duke Energy coal plants.

Dates for each event are listed below.

NCDEQ draft proposed risk classifications map coal ash Duke Energy Review NCDEQ’s priority rankings here; the classifications affect how quickly the coal waste sites will be cleaned up or if they’ll be “capped in place,” an act that would leave much of the industrial waste in unlined pits that are known to contaminate groundwater.

The state’s classifications became controversial after a document was leaked to the media indicating that regional DEQ staffers encouraged state decision makers to classify 27 of North Carolina’s 32 coal ash waste pits as “high” or “immediate” risks. On Dec. 31, 2015, the state’s draft proposal listed only four of the sites as “high” risks.

There are two ways to submit your public comments to NCDEQ on the coal-ash priority rakings: You can submit written comments, or you can attend a public hearing and speak your peace there. All of the public hearings begin at 6 p.m. The dates and the coal plant associated with each hearing, and the county it will be held in, are listed below:

  • March 1: Asheville (Buncombe County), Dan River (Rockingham County), Riverbend* (Gaston County), and Sutton (New Hanover County).
  • March 10: Cape Fear (Chatham County), H.F. Lee (Wayne County), Weatherspoon (Robeson County).
  • March 14: Rogers (formerly Cliffside) — there are two meetings in two different locations being held that night, one in Cleveland County and the other in Rutherford County.
  • March 16: Mayo and Roxboro, both in Person County.
  • March 22: Allen (Gaston County) and Buck (Rowan County).
  • March 24: Belews Creek (Stokes County).
  • March 29: Marshall (Catawba County).
*The Riverbend coal plant is the one closest to Charlotte.

Should you wish to submit your comments via email, those email addresses are listed at the bottom of this post.

IMPORTANT: You are urged to double-check with NCDEQ’s website on the location of each hearing in the event the location changes. Find the address for each public hearing here, where you’ll also find very specific instructions for submitting written comments.

NC Coal Ash Stories 2016Now, on to the free screenings of “Coal Ash Stories”! You’ll see four documentary shorts about coal ash waste — including 10 minutes from “Coal Ash Chronicles” — and have a chance to speak to experts on the topic. There will also be an activity for children, so bring the kids! Here is a list of dates, times, and locations:

  • February 24 at 6:30 p.m.: Cleveland County Memorial Library, 104 Howie Dr. Shelby, N.C., 28150. Facebook event page.
  • February 25 at 6 p.m.: St. Mark Church of Christ, 700 W Ash St. Goldsboro, N.C., 27530.
  • March 1 at 7 p.m.: Catawba College Center for the Environment, 2300 W Innes St. Salisbury, N.C., 28144. Facebook event page.
  • March 2 at 7 p.m.: Hattie’s Tap and Tavern, 2918 The Plaza. Charlotte, N.C., 28205. Facebook event page.
  • March 3 at 7 p.m.: Temple Emanuel, 201 Oakwood Dr. Winston-Salem, N.C., 27103. Facebook event page.
  • March 15 at 6 p.m.: Walnut Cove Public Library, 106 5th St. Walnut Cove, N.C., 27052. UPDATE: Because Duke Energy is holding an invitation-only event for residents at its Belews coal plant at the same date and time as our screening, we moved the screening to March 17 at 6 p.m.: Rising Star (Fellowship Hall) 915 Windmill St, Walnut Cove, NC 27052. The Facebook event page has been updated to reflect this change.

As of 9:15 a.m. Feb. 24, 2015, I noticed that the links to NCDEQ’s website in this post were no longer working and, instead, redirecting to the departments’ main page, now DEQ.NC.GOV. This is critical because ALL of the email addresses for the public comments include ‘ncdenr’ in the address, so now I question whether or not those addresses will work. I have sent this email to the department’s PR contact:

I’m looking for information on the coal ash public meetings on your website this morning and, first of all, the links to the meeting information – links that were all working yesterday, including to the public hearings’ schedule – are this morning redirecting to the department’s main page. Searches on your website for things like “coal ash public meeting” or “coal ash priority ranking” show zero results.

Please advise.
Rhiannon Fionn

UPDATE 2: As of 10:00 a.m. DEQ had updated the coal ash public meeting list, but links to its draft report for priority rankings were still not working. Read the emails back and forth (PDF); includes answers to other questions about the public comment period, information about the agency’s rebranding, etc.

UPDATE 3: DEQ’s webpage about its coal ash draft classifications is now back online, as is its older website. I’ve updated the PDF linked in UPDATE 2 with continued email back and forth with the department.

UPDATE 4: DEQ swears all of these email addresses will be active throughout the comment period, which ends April 18. They cannot, however, give me a time estimate for when the department’s email addresses will change from ‘ncdenr.gov’ to ‘deq.nc.gov’. Below is a list of email addresses for each of the coal plants.