License to Pollute

Concerned neighbors fear Duke Energy may use Trump’s Dirty Water Rule as a license to pollute their reservoirs.

North Carolinians fear these lakes could end up degraded by pollution if they are considered part of Duke’s “waste treatment system.” This possible status change is due to an obscure provision in the Trump rule rewrite that classifies “cooling ponds” as part of waste treatment systems which are not covered by Clean Water Act protections. 

Remarkably, many active recreational lakes could end up defined legally as “cooling ponds” and therefore beyond the scope of the Clean Water Act. That provision is among the “hidden bombs” which could severely damage waters actively used for fishing, boating, and other activities today.

In addition to Sutton Lake on the coast, Belews Lake in the Piedmont has been identified as a recreational resource at risk of degradation due to this rule change. The nearly 4,000-acre lake is a popular destination for boaters and fishers. It is owned by Duke Energy, and was initially created in conjunction with their Belews coal-fired power plant.

This and other Trump rule changes are under legal challenge by a broad array of groups and state leaders. The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed its challenge in a South Carolina federal court on behalf of several citizen groups. A hearing in that case, seeking an injunction to stop the Dirty Water Rule, is set for December 1.

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