- Duke Energy Progress told the North Carolina Utilities Commission that it could recover up to $300 million from insurance companies for costs associated with the utility's handling and cleanup of coal ash waste, the Charlotte Business Journal reports.
- The amounts are a factor in consideration of the utility's broader rate increase proposal, which totals $477.5 million in additional annual revenue. New regulations mean Duke Progress could wind up spending more than $2.5 billion to clean up coal ash ponds and comply with new regulations.
- Costs related to coal ash cleanup have come to dominate the rate case. A new lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center seeks to stop alleged violations of the Clean Water Act at Duke's Belews Creek facility in Stokes County.
Duke's coal ash conundrum is playing a major role in its ongoing rate case even as new lawsuits emerge.
SELC's lawsuit, filed this week, accuses the utility of dumping its coal ash pollution into Little Belews Creek and groundwater through its malfunctioning wastewater treatment system, and illegally using the creek as part of its wastewater dump.
Myra Blake, attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, in a statement accused the utility of continuing to "pollute the groundwater and creek connected to Belews Lake and the Dan River" and said Duke "plans to do so into the future despite the harm it has already caused and the concerns voiced repeatedly by the community."
Costs to clean up coal ash pits have varied widely. Most of those costs would be in North Carolina, but Duke will file a rate case in South Carolina in 2018. Any payment from insurers for part of the cleanup would likely face legal challenges. Duke has said payments could reach $300 million over the longer-term, including future costs.
Duke Carolinas spent $434 million from 2015 through November of 2016, while Duke Energy Progress spent about $292 million. Earlier this year, Duke Carolinas said it had removed almost 3 million tons of coal ash at three facilities, including the Dan River plant. Duke Progress had removed about 2 million tons from its Asheville and Sutton plants. But environmental and customer advocates say ratepayers shouldn't be on the hook for the utility's decisions.
The utility's rate increase proposes almost $500 million in new revenue to pay for some grid improvements, plant upgrades and new solar, along with coal ash expenses.