Duke Energy, Professors Collaborate in “Independent” Studies

On Nov. 10, news organization WBTV published documentation demonstrating significant collaboration between senior officials at Duke Energy and two professors at the University of North Carolina Charlotte who were hired to do independent analysis of the impact of the utility’s coal ash ponds.

Between February 2013 and August 2016, the professors had seven contracts with Duke that netted the university over $1 million. One professor, John Daniels, also chaired an independent advisory board that should have precluded his work on associated scientific research.

Documentation published by WBTV shows that Daniels continued to participate in research conducted for Duke by fellow professor Bill Langley, and that the utility significantly edited Langley’s final reports.

When confronted with the revised text, Langley claimed that he had written the new text, not Duke, according to WBTV.

“Independent scientists? Not so much,” DJ Gerken, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, told the news agency. “They’re definitely relying on Duke Energy for funding and doing work Duke Energy has asked them to do.”

In separate news, Duke Energy released maps in early October showing that nearly 300 structures across the state could be at risk of flooding if dams at the utility’s coal ash ponds rupture. — Elizabeth E. Payne


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