Asheville Plant was a 414-megawatt coal-fired power station in Arden, North Carolina. The coal plant was retired in 2020 and replaced by a 560 MW gas plant.
The plant is several miles east of the Nantahala National Forest, and about five miles south of Ashville, North Carolina.
In 2015 Duke Energy announced that it would retire the plant in "four to five years" (2019 or 2020) and replace it with a larger gas plant (650 MW) plus a solar facility of undisclosed size located on the Asheville Plant's coal combustion waste site. Members of the Ashville Beyond Coal Campaign, including Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, MountainTrue, and Southern Environmental Law Center, applauded the retirement of the plant but criticized its replacement with gas-fired generation: "Folks want a bright future that supports clean energy, not a giant gas plant polluting Asheville for another 30 years."
According to the EIA 860M (November 2018), the power station is planned for retirement in 2019.
However, in January 2020 it was reported the coal plant would close that month, once the gas plant was online.
The plant retired on Jan. 29, 2020. It was replaced by a 560-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas plant
In March 2010, pilot J. Henry Fair flew over the Asheville Plant and made the following observations:
|“||The Asheville coal plant is right next to the airport, which fortunately was not too busy. The lighting was pretty flat, with a good bit of snow on the ground. Amazingly, there were nice houses right under the ash ponds. The volume of crud in these things is staggering. If that earthen dyke bursts (there was nice steam coming off the water, which will someday perfectly illustrate a story on thermal pollution from power plants), that entire neighborhood will literally be buried by this poison-laden slurry.||”|
- Owner: Duke Energy (previously Progress Energy, which merged with Duke Energy in 2012)
- Plant Nameplate Capacity: 414 MW
- Units and In-Service Dates: 207 MW (1964), 207 MW (1971)
- Location: 200 CP&L Dr., Arden, NC 28704
- GPS Coordinates: 35.465556, -82.550278
- Coal Consumption (2009): 949,209 short tons
- Coal Sources (2009)
According to census figures, there are 18,838 people living within a 3-mile radius of the Asheville Plant, and there are 1,954 people within a 1-mile radius. Within a 3-mile radius, the per-capita income is $23,353 and the racial composition of the population is 10.3% non-white.
Air and Water Emissions
- 2006 CO2 Emissions: 2,608,893 tons
- 2006 SO2 Emissions: 2,494 tons
- 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
- 2006 NOx Emissions: 4,679 tons
- 2005 Mercury Emissions: 130 lb.
Coal Waste Sites
Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Ashville Plant
In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants. Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.
Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Ashville Plant
|Type of Impact||Annual Incidence||Valuation|
|Asthma ER visits||14||$5,000|
Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011
Asheville ranked 69th on list of most polluting power plants in terms of coal waste
In January 2009, Sue Sturgis of the Institute of Southern Studies compiled a list of the 100 most polluting coal plants in the United States in terms of coal combustion waste (CCW) stored in surface impoundments like the one involved in the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill. The data came from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2006, the most recent year available.
Asheville Plant ranked number 69 on the list, with 411,793 pounds of coal combustion waste released to surface impoundments in 2006.
"High Hazard" Surface Impoundments
Two of Asheville Plant's coal ash surface impoundments are on EPA's official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event.
Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Asheville Plant waste site
The study "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash," released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011, reported that the level of hexavalent chromium, a highly potent cancer-causing chemical, at a coal ash site associated with the Asheville Plant was 83 parts per billion. That level is 4,150 times as high as California's drinking water goal, and 66% above North Carolina's groundwater standard. In all, the study cited 29 sites in 17 states where hexavalent chromium contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash as well as from studies by EarthJustice, the Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club. It included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In North Carolina, the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, the Asheville Plant in Arden and the Cape Fear Steam Plant in Montcure all were reported as having high levels of hexavalent chromium.
A press release about the report read:
- Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.
According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.
On January 8, 2013, conservation groups Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Western North Carolina Alliance filed a lawsuit against the state Environmental Management Commission, Duke Energy, and Progress Energy seeking the cleanup or shut-down of 14 coal ash pits. The suit challenges a ruling in December 2012 by the Environmental Management Commission, which voted 9-2 that Duke and Progress ash pits were subject to less stringent regulations and were therefore not out of compliance with groundwater contamination standards. The groups argue that monitoring by Progress Energy shows persistent groundwater contamination, including arsenic levels above state standards, at the company’s Asheville Plant and Sutton Steam Plant. Sampling at 12 other coal-fired plants, the litigants contend, also show contamination.
State Legislative Issues
On May 27, 2008, North Carolina State Representative Pricey Harrison introduced House Bill H2709 into the North Carolina General Assembly. The bill seeks to outlaw the use of coal extracted from mountaintop removal mines from being burned in North Carolina coal fired power plants.
On February 26, 2009, State Representative Pricey Harrison re-introduced the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act, along with 26 original co-signers, into the North Carolina State House. State Senator Steve Goss (D-45) introduced a companion bill in the Senate. 
On July 31, 2009, Governor Perdue signed Senate Bill 1004, which increases the safety oversight of coal ash ponds in North Carolina. The legislation requires that the dams enclosing coal ash ponds be inspected every two years by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The bill was sponsored by State Sen. David Hoyle (D-Guilford) and Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford).
- Appalachian Voices
- Asheville Rising Tide
- Canary Coalition
- North Carolina Waste Awareness And Reduction Network
- Sierra Club North Carolina Chapter
- Southern Environmental Law Center
- Western North Carolina Alliance
Articles and Resources
- Maia Raposo, "Asheville coal plant retirement signals end to coal ash pollution," Waterkeeper Alliance website, May 19, 2015
- "Duke Energy unveils $1.1 billion plan to end coal era in Asheville, N.C.," Duke Energy website, May 19, 2015
- 860M: Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, EIA, November 2018
- Chávez, Karen. "Top 10 things to know about Duke Energy's proposed coal ash landfill at Lake Julian". Citizen Times. Retrieved 2020-01-03.
- "Asheville Plant," Duke Energy, accessed June 2020
- "North Carolina Coal Ash," OnEarth, March 12, 2010
- Energy Information Administration Form 923 for 2009
- Energy Information Administration Form 923 for 2009
- Coal plants near residential areas, SourceWatch
- "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
- "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
- Sue Sturgis, "Coal's ticking timebomb: Could disaster strike a coal ash dump near you?," Institute for Southern Studies, January 4, 2009.
- TRI Explorer, EPA, accessed January 2009.
- Coal waste
- "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
- "Damage Case Report for Coal Compustion Wastes," August 2008
- U.S. EPA Proposed Coal Ash Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35128
- EarthJustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and Sierra Club, "In Harm's Way: Lack of Federal Coal Ash Regulations Endangers Americans and their Environment," August 2010
- EarthJustice and Environmental Integrity Project, "Out of Control: Mounting Damages from Coal Ash Waste Sites," May 2010
- "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.
- Anne Blythe, "Environmental groups seek clean up of 14 coal ash pits," News Observer, Jan. 8, 2013.
- HOUSE BILL 2709 - FIRST EDITION, GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA, MAY 28, 2008
- "Legislators introduce Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act", Appalachian Voices press release, February 26, 2009.
- "Perdue signs bill on stricter controls of coal ash ponds," Salisbury Post, July 31, 2009.
- Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2005, Energy Information Administration, accessed Jan. 2009.
- Environmental Integrity Project, "Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants", July 2007.
- Facility Registry System, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed Jan. 2009.
- Carbon Monitoring for Action database, accessed Feb. 2009.
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Coal waste
- Existing U.S. Coal Plants
- North Carolina and coal
- Progress Energy
- United States and coal
- Global warming
- Mountaintop removal
- External costs of coal
- Climate impacts of coal plants
- Clean coal