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Just before the second anniversary of the Dan River coal ash spill, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held public hearings on basin closures across the state. At the center of the public comment period, and a series of hearings across the state, was determining the priority for closure among the 14 Duke Energy owned coal ash sites. The final rankings will determine both the closure clean-up process and a closure deadline.

To inform residents and involve them in the DEQ public comment period, Working Films organized six Coal Ash Stories events in towns and cities where the hearings will be held: Shelby, Goldsboro, Salisbury, Charlotte, Winston Salem, and Walnut Cove. We teamed up with Appalachian Voices, Clean Water for North Carolina and NC Warn to plan the tour. We also partnered with community based partners in each location, including Broad Riverkeeper, French Broad Riverkeeper, Down East Coal Ash Coalition, Yadkin Riverkeeper, Central Piedmont Sierra Club, Catawba Riverkeeper, Temple Emanuel Environmental Movement, and Residents for Coal Ash Cleanup.

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Katie Hicks, with Clean Water For North Carolina introduces the films in Shelby. Photo credit: Casey White.

The events provided a catalyst for audiences to write comments and receive information about the upcoming hearings. The screenings were also an opportunity to talk with neighbors, issue experts, and advocates about how to get involved in ongoing efforts to protect their communities. The tour happened at a critical time for citizens to speak out for a transparent, swift, and protective plan to safely store coal ash and ensure safe drinking water for neighbors of coal ash sites. This was the first and only opportunity for direct public input on the fate of Duke’s NC coal ash basins.

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Packed house for the Charlotte screening! Photo credit: Britten Cleveland.

Britten Cleveland, organizer with Central Piedmont Sierra Club, one of the local hosts of the Charlotte screenings, said, “The event was great! It was such an amazing show of teamwork. We had dozens of people take action, or commit to taking action (attend hearings and phone bank).”

For more info on the tour, check out this great coverage from the Shelby screening, which features quotes from concerned community members.

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