- The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled last week that the state’s recently enacted coal ash law allows Duke Energy until 2029 to complete its cleanup of coal ash sites in the state.
- The justices accepted Duke’s arguments in overruling a lower court's decision that the nation's largest power company must take "immediate action" to stop leaks of the toxic residue, a byproduct of coal electricity generaton, from its containment ponds. They agreed the 2014 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.
- Environmental groups had argued the utility’s claim that its planning for cleanup did not provide prompt enough results. In response to the new decision, a Waterkeeper Alliance spokesperson said the ruling demonstrates Dukes “extraordinary influence over North Carolina government, from legislators who make the rules to regulators responsible for enforcing them.”
In December, Duke revealed in regulatory filings that it had identified an estimated 200 leaks and seeps at 32 coal ash storage sites, the Associated Press reprots. The leaks ooze over 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater daily.
While Duke may have more time than enviornmentalists would like to complete the cleanup, issues surrounding coal ash persist.
Duke shareholder Judy Mesirov recently filed a lawsuit against the utility's Board of Directors alleging the utility avoided compliance with environmental regulations through "improper influence" with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural resources.
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 spill. It agreed to pay $68 million that cannot be passed to customers in fines and $34 million for environmental projects.
Duke is separately 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. The utility said it has used the Dan River incident “to set a new, industry-leading standard for the management of coal ash.”