- Duke Energy will pay the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) a state record $7 million to resolve the agency’s charges against the utility for contaminating groundwater at 14 of its coal ash storage sites and at its Sutton power plant.
- In return for the DEQ accepting the reduced penalty, Duke agreed to drop its counter-suit against the DEQ, despite videotaped depositions showing 10 current and former agency employees testifying there was no legal basis for the $25.1 million fine regulators initially sought.
- The DEQ calls the $7 million monetary requirement in the agreement a fine, and claims it is part of a settlement valued at $20 million it won from the utility.
Duke said the monetary penalty is not a fine and fully resolves all its monetary obligations pertaining to coal ash.
Southern Environmental Law Center Attorney Frank Holleman called the deal a “total capitulation” by the DEQ to the utility's demands.
The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in June the state’s 2014 coal ash law allows Duke Energy until 2029 to complete its coal ash site clean-up in the state. The justices agreed the law, passed in response to the utility's Dan River spill, gives Duke until 2019 to close 4 high-priority sites and to 2029 to close the rest.
A Waterkeeper Alliance spokesperson said the ruling demonstrated Duke’s “extraordinary influence over North Carolina government, from legislators who make the rules to regulators responsible for enforcing them.”
Duke welcomed “the opportunity to put this issue behind us” and close “coal ash basins in ways that protect people and the environment.”