The Lilies Project

Caroline Armijo

Funding Received: 2017
Walnut Cove, NC
Funding Period: 2 years and 6 months
November 12, 2020

Scene from the NC DEQ Hearing at Walnut Cove Elementary School in Walnut Cove, NC, February 2020

Last night, representatives from NC DEQ held a hearing regarding the excavation of the coal ash from Belews Creek. Following are my comments that I shared. It was an emotional speech for me as I recall our press conference last January standing with Danielle, the only other time I had visited Walnut Cove Elementary. Plus it was the eve of ten-year anniversary of coal ash work

Good evening!

My name is Caroline Rutledge Armijo. I am the Director of The Lilies Project and a member of both Residents for Coal ash Clean Up based here at Belews Creek and our statewide coalition ACT against Coal Ash. 

I would like to thank Asst. Secretary Holman, Secretary Regan, Governor Cooper and all of the DEQ Staff members for listening to our community members and demanding that Duke excavate its coal ash, making it a historical decision for our state and each of you. We are beyond confident that this decision was the right thing to do. Today can be seen as the first step forward in a decade of recovery for Belews Creek. But we all know that each of us in this room have been part of a massive movement leading up to this moment over the last decade. And we are all tired. 

When I heard the news that some form of this decision was coming on Christmas Eve, it was hard for me not to weep when we sang O Come All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant. Because as a community, we have certainly been faithful and persistent and determined to see this day through. 

Today I wish I felt joyful, but instead I feel grief and sorrow for all of those we have lost and will very likely lose prematurely in the decades to come. Our crowd is diminished tonight by those attending friends in the hospital, or resting after funerals or are no longer with us. Period. 

So I do want to thank you. But I also to challenge you to protect the workers who are going to clean up the coal ash. Certainly they are our friends and family, too. 

I also challenge you to stick to the safeguards you put in place and make certain that Duke meets all of their agreements over the coming decade. Continue to push for higher standards and expectations even in a climate where we hear corporations claiming that things are not possible. 

We know that they are. We know that our work is not complete. We know that miracles are possible. And while this feels like one of them, it is certainly not the last. 

We would like to see not the bare minimum as presented here today. But that Belews Creek will be the model of remediation, including solar energy production, bioremediation that includes native pollinators, and opportunities for the community to benefit from wildlife through nature preserves inside the borders of Stokes County.  Duke’s investment has been too little too late. 

But now that this decision has been settled, we expect that our community will be treated on par with Belews Creek’s role within Duke’s fleet. As a premiere facility in a community that deserves the very best. 

In addition, on the way over here tonight, I heard an announcement that Duke plans to be carbon neutral by 2050. In the next story it said that our ice caps melted at a rate that scientists expected to occur in 2070 happened last year. 2050 is far too late.

Thank you.