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CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) — A North Carolina judge says a coalition of environmental groups can participate in the state’s enforcement action against Duke Energy for groundwater pollution leeching from the company’s coal ash dumps.

The coalition turned to a judge after being blocked from participating in the case.

Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled the groups could become full parties in the proceedings, a decision that was praised Tuesday by environmentalists who tried to use the Clean Water Act last year to force Duke to clean up its 33 ash pits across the state.

Duke spokesman Thomas Williams says the company doesn’t plan to appeal Ridgeway’s ruling.

The ruling comes three months after a massive coal ash spill at a Duke pit coated 70 miles of the Dan River with a toxic gray sludge.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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