City Proposes Land Swap With Duke Energy

Aug 13, 2014

The City of Charlotte has rejected a Duke Energy proposal to use coal ash to grade land at Charlotte Douglas airport. Instead, city officials have presented a counter offer.

A diagram of how the environmental recycling company Charah would have sealed the ash under the runway.
Credit Charah

After studying the offer, the city found the airport could save $30 million on a new runway by using coal ash—sealed in plastic to prevent leaks—from Duke’s retired Riverbend coal plant instead of buying dirt to level the land. City staff thought the idea had environmental merit, but it could cause major problems for the airport if it leaked or developed a structural problem underneath the runway.

“If something should happen 50 years from now, it would impact the airport, the airport’s airline partners,” says Hyong Yi, the assistant city manager who led the report. “It would impact pretty much every employee that works there. It would impact the U.S. air system. It would impact the international air system—and you can pretty much see the ripple effects.”

Instead, city officials have proposed a land swap. Duke gets 100 acres of airport land where it can build a landfill for the ash, and the city takes 40 acres that Duke owns next to one of CLT’s parking lots, which airport officials have had their eyes on for awhile.

Duke has said it is reviewing the land swap idea.

The city council’s environment committee voted to reject Duke’s proposal, and directed staff to pursue this counteroffer.