Duke Settles Lawsuit With Neighbors Of Coal Ash Sites

Jan 26, 2018
Originally published on January 26, 2018 7:05 pm

Duke Energy has settled a class-action lawsuit filed by homeowners who live near the company’s coal ash sites, and the suit has been dismissed. 

According to a report on WBTV , homeowners say Duke has agreed to changes to an agreement that lets contractors onto properties. And the company has changed a release form that required homeowners to give up the right to future legal claims if they accepted cash payments from Duke. 

A Duke spokeswoman confirmed the settlement, but said details are confidential. 

Duke has offered neighbors of its coal ash sites payments of $5,000, plus $20,000 or more for future water bills. And it's offering to compensate people for lost property values. But the payments required residents to sign a release waiving their right to sue Duke in the future. 

A group of neighbors didn't like that, and sued Duke last August at Wake County Superior Court.  Their lawyer argued that state law bars public utilities from making people sign agreements like these, known as exculpatory clauses.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan sent WFAE a statement saying the company hasn't changed its offer to neighbors: 

"As we talked with the residents, we were able to clarify misinformation and confusion about what is and is not included in the release they’d be asked to sign. We did not change the offering made to them or all eligible neighbors, but are pleased that through education a lawsuit without merit was dismissed. Now we can continue to focus on providing permanent water solutions to our plant neighbors."

She said Duke is continuing to work on providing permanent water lines or water filters to neighbors of its coal ash dumps. 

Duke says it's not responsible for contamination in hundreds of private wells around its coal plants. But state law says it has to provide water filters or public water lines to about 1,000 plant neighbors by late this year.

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