Duke Energy appeals fine issued by North Carolina environmental regulators

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Duke Energy today appealed an unprecedented fine issued by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), arguing, among other things, that actions already taken by the company make the penalty unnecessary and excessive. The company is asking that the fine be dismissed.

On March 10, 2015, the environmental regulator fined the company $25.1 million for groundwater violations at the L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant in Wilmington.

"The Sutton plant generated electricity for millions of customers and operated in compliance with North Carolina law and environmental regulations," said Paul Newton, state president – North Carolina. "We closely monitored groundwater, shared the data with the state for decades, and voluntarily acted to ensure residents near the Sutton plant continue to have a high-quality water supply."

The appeal, filed with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, describes a number of instances where the company believes NC DENR's actions violated state law, the regulator's own rules and procedures, public policy and the longstanding interpretation of the regulations, including:

  • Fining the company for 1,822 days of alleged groundwater violations despite having sample results for just 27 days.
  • Creating an entirely new methodology to calculate the fine that dramatically increased the size of the penalty, making it $24 million higher than similar fines issued by NC DENR.
  • Failure to consider naturally occurring substances and other potential sources of groundwater contamination in the area.

A complete copy of the company's appeal, including a number of other improper actions the company believes NC DENR took, can be found here.

"There are important legal issues here that must be resolved for the sake of everyone in North Carolina," said Newton. "At the same time, we remain focused on closing ash basins as quickly as the state process will allow, which ultimately addresses groundwater concerns."

Company awaits state approvals to begin ash basin closure

The company will close 32 ash basins across North Carolina, and has been working hard on plans to execute these closures. The work will begin at four facilities: Asheville, Dan River, Riverbend, and Sutton.

Ash can only be removed from the basins after the state issues new wastewater permits, for which the company applied in 2014. The first three of these permits are expected this summer.

More information on Duke Energy's coal ash management can be found at http://www.duke-energy.com/ash-management/.

About Duke Energy

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at duke-energy.com