- Duke Energy pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act committed by three of its subsidiaries associated with the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill. It has agreed to pay $68 million that cannot be passed to customers in fines, as well as $34 million for environmental projects, for damages.
- The spill resulted after Duke refused to spend $20,000 on video inspections of a 48 inch metal pipe built in 1954, one of two storm-water pipes running under the Dan River coal plant ash pond. Prosecutors say Duke engineers were not aware the pipe was made of corrugated metal and not the preferred concrete, although plant employees knew otherwise.
- Duke also pleaded guilty to ash violations at four other power plants due to improper equipment maintenance, failure to do recommended pipe inspections, and illegal channeling of ash seeps into rivers.
Duke had repaired leaks in both Dan River pipes in 1979 but independent consultants issued warnings, ignored by Duke, of potential problems since 1981. Duke also did not measure water flow and then refused video inspections in 2011 and 2012 that would have detected the corrosion.
The nation's largest power company is also fighting a $25 million state fine for groundwater contamination at another site, was cited by North Carolina for further violations, and faces over a dozen lawsuits from advocacy and shareholder groups.
One lawsuit alleges that Duke intentionally flouted coal ash regulations and exercised "improper influence" over the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural resources
Duke said it has used the Dan River incident “to set a new, industry-leading standard for the management of coal ash.” It committed to close its ash ponds by excavating and closing basins, moving some ash to a structural landfill, adding teams for ash management, pursuing expert consultations and independent reviews, conducting better monitoring and video inspections, and recycling more ash safely.