For Immediate Release, October 6, 2023

Contact:  Perrin de Jong, (828) 252-4646,

Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund Endorses Slate of Chapel Hill Progressives
Searing, Soll, Adams, Eckhardt, Sharp Would Ensure Safe Coal Ash Cleanup

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, the 501(c)(4) political arm of the Center for Biological Diversity, announced today that it is endorsing Adam Searing for Chapel Hill mayor, along with a slate of progressive candidates for Town Council. The Action Fund is endorsing Renuka Soll, David Adams, Breckany Eckhardt and Elizabeth Sharp to lead the Town Council and tackle tough environmental issues like the cleanup of the police station property.

“This slate would give Chapel Hill the progressive votes needed to ensure that the coal ash is completely removed and safely disposed of from the police station property before any redevelopment takes place,” said Perrin de Jong, North Carolina political director of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “The current leadership isn’t working to fully remove this toxic contamination from the community and that failure is putting residents and wildlife at risk.”

The town of Chapel Hill is currently in negotiations with the state of North Carolina to redevelop the police station property without fully removing and cleaning up the toxic coal ash that lies underneath. Thousands of tons of coal ash from UNC-Chapel Hill’s coal-burning power plant have threatened surrounding neighborhoods and waterways with contamination for decades since the ash was used as fill material prior to the construction of the police station. In 2022 Duke University geochemist Avner Vengosh determined that UNC’s coal ash contains elevated concentrations of toxic metals such as arsenic and lead, as well as the radionuclide radium.

The coal ash has since reached the surface, putting the local water supply and public health at risk. The station is surrounded by homes and businesses, and the site drains directly into Bolin Creek, a popular recreational destination. Bolin Creek drains into Jordan Lake, the drinking water supply for more than 1 million people. It is also part of a watershed that is home to the Atlantic pigtoe, a freshwater mussel listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund is endorsing these candidates, who are campaigning for a full cleanup of the coal ash at the police station property:

Adam Searing for mayor — Raised in Chapel Hill, Searing has held a seat on Town Council for the past two years. He has consistently advocated for the needs of local residents over the desires of for-profit developers. He is a public interest attorney and environmental advocate who has stood up for the protection of Legion Park from overdevelopment.

Renuka Soll for council — An 18-year resident of Chapel Hill, Soll is chair of the town’s Parks, Greenways, and Recreation Commission. Her campaign is focused on the protection of the town’s tree canopy, rural buffer and Legion Park.

David Adams for council — A 39-year resident of Chapel Hill, Adams played a leading role in the campaign to establish Legion Park. He vigorously advocates   against development of the park so it can be fully enjoyed by the public.

Breckany Eckhardt for council — A six-year resident of Chapel Hill, Eckhardt is a medical records trainer at Palomar Health and a recent breast cancer survivor. She is campaigning for the protection of Legion Park from developers.  

Elizabeth Sharp for council — A seven-year resident of Chapel Hill, Sharp is a local restaurant owner who is campaigning to protect and enhance multi-modal transit options for those who want to ditch their cars.

The Center Action Fund is a national nonprofit organization that advocates for legislation and legislators that will advance a progressive environmental agenda. The Center Action Fund is the 501(c)(4) affiliate of the Center for Biological Diversity, but these organizations’ names are not interchangeable. This news release is from the Center Action Fund, not the Center for Biological Diversity.