Energy Report

Duke Energy Faces Historic Fines for Coal Ash Pollution

Date: April 8, 2015

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By AV Staff

Duke Energy has agreed to pay $102 million for federal criminal charges stemming from violations of the Clean Water Act at five of its 14 coal ash sites in North Carolina.

The nine misdemeanors cite illegal discharges of coal ash wastewater from holding ponds, as well as equipment and upkeep violations. North Carolina, like the rest of the country, has very few limits on the amount of pollution power plants can directly discharge into waterways. This includes coal ash, which contains toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and selenium.

According to Duke’s own assessment, 200 seeps at its power plants leak nearly 3 million gallons of polluted water into streams and rivers every year. Prior to the Dan River coal ash spill, even self-reported violations by Duke were not penalized, but in the wake of the ensuing federal investigation, the state began issuing a flurry of citations.

In February and March, the state issued the utility more penalties for groundwater pollution: a $25.1 million fine at its Sutton plant in Wilmington, the largest state penalty ever issued for environmental damages, and citations at a coal ash pond in Asheville, which are still awaiting response from Duke.

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