Plainfield, In. — Duke Energy today provided an update on the strong progress to permanently and safely close all the company’s remaining coal ash basins.The scope and scale of the company’s work to close 56 basins at 21 plants continues to move forward. Highlights of the progress include:More than 7 million work hours were logged in 2018 by expert teams focused on basin closure, demonstrating the company’s commitment to safely managing coal ash.Work to prepare basins for closure is underway across the fleet. By early 2019, the company will stop sending ash and wastewater to nearly all basins, well in advance of state and federal requirements. To accomplish this, the company constructed dry bottom ash handling systems, lined water treatment basins and new lined retention basins at a number of operating coal plants.Ash has been excavated from seven basins at the Asheville plant (Asheville, N.C.), Rogers Energy Complex (Mooresboro, N.C.), W.S. Lee facility (Belton, S.C.), Cayuga Generating Station (Cayuga, Ind), Gibson Generating Station (Owensville, Ind), and Gallagher Generating Station (New Albany, Ind).In the coming months, excavation will be completed at seven additional basins at the Dan River facility (Eden, N.C.), Riverbend Steam Station (Mount Holly, N.C.), Sutton Energy Complex (Wilmington, N.C.) and East Bend Station (Boone Co., KY). Approximately 22 million tons of ash have been excavated since basin closure began in recent years, with more than 5 million tons moved in 2018 alone.A vital step in closure is to remove the free water from the basins, which will happen at both excavated and capped facilities. That process is underway at many locations and is the most effective step in improving groundwater quality. In addition, the company has begun work to determine additional corrective actions to improve groundwater, and it will monitor groundwater for decades to ensure that the environment remains well protected.Company responds to Southern Environmental Law CenterAll utilities in the country are required to release information related to mandatory groundwater testing at their respective plants.Information posted to the company’s Coal Combustion Residuals rule compliance page shows that, in many cases, groundwater near the edges of ash basins does not meet federal standards, as expected. It is important to note that these are not drinking water well samples and the broader body of evidence tells us that drinking water around Duke Energy facilities remains well-protected from plant operations.In a December 18 news release, the Southern Environmental Law Center knowingly mischaracterizes yet another step in a comprehensive regulatory process to mislead the public. Despite the group’s false claims, the company is in full compliance with the federal law.The results the company posted are consistent with historic and ongoing sampling being conducted by the company and submitted to regulators over many years. The information is intended to help inform closure decisions, but Duke Energy has already made that commitment and the company is well down the path to safely closing all ash basins in ways that protect people and the environment.