With Charah Solutions having fulfilled its obligation to Duke Energy for the disposal of coal ash at a site in Chatham County, the contractual relationship between the two companies is now dissolved, a Duke spokesman told the Rant on Friday.

But Charah retains ownership of a still-unused site in the Colon area of Lee County, leaving open the possibility that it could still eventually be a disposal site for millions of tons of coal ash from elsewhere – this time without any potential monetary benefit to Lee County. Duke had negotiated a $12 million payout to the county had coal ash been disposed of at Colon. That never happened, but coal ash was delivered as part of the same agreement to a site at nearby Brickhaven in Chatham County.

Meanwhile, Charah issued a second quarter financial statement in August showing an $18 million loss, but also displaying optimism for future earnings due to more than a quarter billion dollars in “new awards” and even more in “verbal awards:”

“While our second quarter results were disappointing, in this transition year, we are committed to making adjustments to improve our operating efficiency, reduce our debt levels and increase our margin potential,” said Scott Sewell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Charah Solutions. “We were pleased to finalize an $80 million recovery for the Brickhaven termination, and we have secured approximately $275 million in new awards year-to-date. Additionally, we have $400 million in verbal awards currently under negotiation, and we continue to expect additional positive proposal developments in the second half of 2019 and 2020. The combination of backlog generated year-to-date and verbal awards under negotiation is trending towards one of our strongest business development years on record.”

The Rant has reached out to Charah about whether the company has plans for the Colon site now that its deal with Duke is fulfilled, and will update this post with any comment the company provides, but sources indicate that Charah still has a valid permit to dump coal ash at the site if it so chooses.

“They’re still fully permitted at the Colon site, and if they wanted to start construction tomorrow on a coal ash pit, there’s nothing we could do to stop them,” said Therese Vick, a member of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

Vick said she doesn’t have any information directly indicating that Charah has plans for the Colon site, but that the variety of factors surrounding the situation gives her cause for concern. She plans to make a presentation to the Lee County Board of Commissioners on the subject Monday night.

“We can look at the Chatham site and see what could be in store for Lee County,” she said, referring to the site at Brickhaven near Moncure where Charah has disposed of coal ash for Duke in recent years. “That kind of forecasts what could happen here. I’m not trying to fearmonger, but I think the community and the public deserves to know.”

With the passage of the Coal Ash Management Act of 2013, all regulatory power over coal ash disposal is maintained at the state level, giving local government very limited resources with which to fight any decision to locate coal ash here.

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