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Contending that the N.C. DENR acted “arbitrarily and capriciously,” three environmental nonprofits have taken the first step in challenging recently granted coal ash dumping permits for dual projects in Chatham and Lee counties.

The groups—the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump (CCACAD) and EnvironmentaLEE—filed a petition for a contested case hearing with the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings Monday. The office hears legal cases against state agencies such as DENR.

The case comes after DENR issued permits last month that would allow Duke Energy contractors to dump up to 20 million tons of potentially toxic coal ash in abandoned brick mines in Sanford and Moncure. Both coal ash dumping plans were bitterly contested by locals and environmentalists, although Chatham and Lee county officials made separate deals for compensation with Duke after finding that state law forbids them from stopping the projects.

In their legal challenge, the nonprofits say DENR’s actions will have a “significant and adverse impact on the health and well-being” of the environmental groups’ members, as well as their families and their property. The challenge also claims that DENR acted “erroneously” and regulated the projects as mine reclamation projects rather than landfills.

“Communities targeted for coal ash disposal deserve a regulatory agency that has their best interests at heart, not what is in the best interest of Duke Energy,” said BREDL community organizer Therese Vick in a statement. “DENR had sufficient reason to deny the permits, and they did not.”

Read the full challenge here.