- North Carolina regulators have hit Duke Energy Progress with a more-than $25 million fine for groundwater contamination from coal ash at the Sutton Plant near Wilmington.
- The state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also said that groundwater violations at other Duke Energy facilities could result in additional fines against the utility.
- The fine followed determinations by regulators that Duke Energy allowed a host of coal ash contaminants to leach into the groundwater at the facility for several years.
The penalty levied against Duke Energy is the largest environmental fine in the state's history. State officials said they calculated the fine by determining the number of days specific constituents exceeded a groundwater quality standard, multiplied by a daily penalty amount.
“Today’s enforcement action continues the aggressive approach this administration has taken on coal ash,” said DENR Secretary Donald R. van der Vaart. “In addition to holding the utility accountable for past contamination we have found across the state, we are also moving expeditiously to remove the threat to our waterways and groundwater from coal ash ponds statewide.”
Under state law, Duke has 30 days to respond to the fine and may choose to appeal it to the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings.
Last year, Duke proposed moving millions of tons of coal ash from four sites, initially representing approximately 30% of the total ash stored there. Duke estimated that in addition to 108 million tons of ash in basins across the state, approximately 30 million tons is in landfills and 14 million tons is in other locations on plant property, such as structural fills or dry ash stacks.