News & Opinion

Weekly News Roundup: Duke Energy Has to Clean Up Its Ash

Duke Ordered to Carry Out Largest Coal Ash Excavation in U.S. History

Duke Energy will be responsible for the largest coal-ash clean-up in United States history after reaching an agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that will end Duke’s appeal of an order to excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash from six sites in North Carolina.

Under the signed agreement, Duke will be required to excavate more than 76 million tons of coal ash from open, unlined impoundments: Allen Steam Station in Belmont, Belews Creek Power Station in Stokes County, Cliffside Steam Station in Mooresboro, Marshall Steam Station in Terrell, Mayo Power Station in Roxboro, and Roxboro Steam Plant in Semora.

A collapsed impoundment at the Dan River Steam Station in Eden in 2014 caused a coal ash spill and raised awareness for the dangers of such sites. (Photo courtesy of U.S. EPA)


Environmental groups have long fought to have the coal ash removed from the unlined ponds where it currently sits due to the threat to nearby rivers and lakes. The coal ash will be moved into on-site lined landfills. Duke had originally requested that they be allowed to simply cap the unlined coal ash ponds. The new agreement also requires Duke to enter into a court-supervised consent order with DEQ and the community groups represented by Southern Environmental Law Center, which filed the lawsuit that led to the agreement.

“North Carolina’s communities have lived with the threat of coal ash pollution for too long,” DEQ secretary Michael S. Regan wrote in a release. “They can now be certain that the clean-up of the last coal ash impoundments in our state will begin this year. We are holding Duke accountable and will continue to hold them accountable for their actions as we protect public health, the environment and our natural resources.”

Charlotte Diocese Releases List of Predator Clergy

On Monday, the Charlotte Diocese released a list of clergy who have been “credibly accused” of child sex abuse and have served in Charlotte and the surrounding region. The term “credibly accused” refers to the diocese’s internal process for substantiating allegations.

Richard Farwell allegedly abused victims at St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte. He was convicted in 2004.

The list is broken up into three parts, the first naming 14 priests whose alleged crimes occurred within the Charlotte diocese, which covers Mecklenburg and 45 other counties, mostly making up the western half of North Carolina. Among those 14, nine are deceased. None of the men named are still in the ministry. Only one has served time in prison. The diocese claims that no current member of its clergy has been credibly accused of sexual misconduct.

The second part of the list names 23 clergy members who served in the Charlotte diocese “without incident” but were credibly accused of sex abuse elsewhere. The third part lists six men who served in western North Carolina before the inception of the diocese in 1972 and were accused of abuse.

The Charlotte Diocese had come under scrutiny for being one of the last major dioceses in the country to release such a list. As recently as January 2019, then-spokesman David Hanes made public comments that cast doubt on the likelihood it would ever do so: “There is no empirical evidence that publishing a list brings comfort or aide to victims. We obviously have done a lot to harm victims. We don’t want to pile on and do more.”

In May, the diocese announced that it would commission an outside agency to review all of its personnel records and compile a list of credibly accused clergy. Since then, the Huntersville-based US Investigative Security Services agency has reviewed tens of thousands of records involving 1,600 personnel of the Charlotte Diocese.

In a letter introducing the list on the diocese website, Bishop of Charlotte Peter Jurgis writes, “… in speaking with survivors and hearing their stories, it is clear to me that making known the names of their abusers can promote healing for them and their families.”

The letter offers a sweeping, sorrowful apology, recognizing the wider problem of sex abuse in the Catholic church’s history. Jurgis then goes on to herald the progress made in recent decades, and with great optimism emphasizes that this problem, like the all the clergy named in the report, is a thing of the past.

The diocese states on its website that additional info identified during the file review has been referred to the diocese’s Lay Review Board for further review and that the website will be updated as more information comes to light.

For more on the release of the list, listen to this week’s episode of Nooze Hounds.

Two Teens Arrested for Murder of 13-Year-Old at Concord Mills

The mother of 13-year-old, Aveanna Propst, shot and killed in the Concord Mills mall parking lot on Saturday night, held a vigil in front of her home on Friday night, hours after police made a second arrest in Aveanna’s killing.

Aveanna Propst.

According to Concord Police Department Major Robert Ledwell, the CMPD Violent Criminal Apprehension Team found and arrested 18-year-old Dontae Milton-Black on Wednesday morning. Investigators believe Milton-Black fired the shots that killed Propst. He’s been charged with first-degree murder and felony riot. On Friday, CPD officers arrested a 15-year-old male suspect who they say is an acquaintance of Milton-Black and charged him with first-degree murder and felony riot.

Police responded to Concord Mills at around 8:40 p.m. on Saturday in response to a call about a fight that started near GameStop inside the mall. Investigators believe Milton-Black got into a fight with an unnamed 16-year-old male, who saw Milton-Black pull a gun from his clothes. According to Ledwell, Milton-Black and others in the area were ordered to leave the mall through Entrance 1 near Sun & Ski Sports.

The 16-year-old who had been involved in the fight exited through Dave & Buster’s, fearful that Milton-Black would shoot him if he saw him. Milton-Black eventually did see the teen in front of Dave & Buster’s and allegedly opened fire, hitting Propst and two other victims, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Propst was pronounced dead on the scene.

Excelsior Club Sold

After failing to close on a deal earlier this year, California-based Kenwood Investments has reportedly finalized its purchase of the historic Excelsior Club in west Charlotte. The group plans to redevelop the club — which opened in 1944 and was a gathering place for Charlotte’s black community through the Jim Crow era — into a restaurant, hotel, art gallery, bar, lounge and music hall.

The Excelsior Club when it was a hub of Charlotte’s African-American community. (Photo courtesy of Collette Forrest)

Though that might mean demolishing the building, Kenwood has committed to the “restoration, preservation or replication” of Exceslior Club, according to an agreement with the city and county, each of which has invested $50,000 in the project. The Knight Foundation has also promised $50,000, while Foundation for the Carolinas has pitched in $100,000.

Charlotte Ends Year at 108 Homicides

No homicides have occurred in Charlotte since before Christmas, and with 2019 coming to an end on Tuesday night, Charlotte finished the year with 108 homicides, the most since 1993, which saw a record-high 129 murders. It was also the first year Charlotte had seen more than 100 homicides since then.

Patrick O’Boyle contributed writing and reporting to this roundup. 

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