Coal Ash Spill

A string of decisions by North Carolina regulators this year means electricity consumers could be seeing a multibillion-dollar bill to clean up mountains of waste Duke Energy created over decades burning coal to produce power.

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Duke Energy Corp. will pay a $156,000 penalty for polluting ground and surface waters with potentially toxic coal-ash waste around three power plants, an amount one critic compared Friday to a couple of days salary for the company's CEO.

The penalty is less than a slap on the wrist for the country's No. 2 electricity company, which generated $23 billion in revenue and reported paying CEO Lynn Good $21.4 million last year, the Sierra Club's David Rogers said.

State environmental regulators are gathering comments on a proposed air quality permit that would let Duke Energy reprocess and recycle coal ash stored at the Buck plant in Salisbury, North Carolina. The 30-day public comment period wraps up with a public hearing Tuesday night.  

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

A North Carolina appeals court should keep alive a five-year-old lawsuit because it increases the pressure on Duke Energy Corp. to clean up groundwater contaminated by its coal ash pits, environmental lawyers argued Thursday.

The Charlotte-based electricity utility admits coal ash has tainted underground water supplies, but says the potentially toxic brew hasn't harmed neighbors using water wells. Coal ash, the residue left after decades of burning coal to generate power, can contain toxic materials like arsenic and mercury.

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. 

Hearings continue this week in Duke Energy's request for a rate hike, and among the costs that the utility is trying to recover is nearly $2 million for bottled water it provides to homeowners near coal ash pits. 

By EMERY P. DALESIO

AP Business Writer

Charging North Carolina consumers the full, multi-billion-dollar cost of cleaning up coal ash dumps is comparable to tire stores charging customers an extra fee to dispose of an old set of wheels, a Duke Energy Corp. executive said Monday.

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The country’s largest electric company heads into a fight for a rate hike with regulators in its top market now focused on setting a precedent on whether consumers should pay the full cost of cleaning up coal ash pits loaded with toxic metals.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission opens hearings today into whether Duke Energy Corp. will be allowed to charge consumers nearly $200 million a year for the cleanup.

For several years, Duke Energy has faced criticisms about its handling of coal ash, including concerns about contamination of groundwater around coal ash storage ponds at power plant sites in the Carolinas. Now, the company is facing scrutiny over the way it engaged with experts hired to study its handling of coal ash ponds. 

Duke Energy has removed about 13 million tons of coal ash at five plants in North Carolina as it complies with federal and state cleanup requirements. But ten times that amount remains in the ground across the state, and not all that will be removed.

Gerry Broome/AP

The country's largest electric company is refusing online access to federally mandated maps showing the scope of disaster resulting if a coal-ash pit burst and spilled its toxic muck onto neighboring properties, two environmental law groups said Wednesday.

Duke Energy Corp. is giving notice it plans to seek electricity rate increases for another 2 million North Carolina customers.

New EPA rules require power plant operators nationwide to rate the safety risks of coal ash dams and say how they plan to clean up coal ash basins. Here in the Carolinas, Duke Energy has begun publishing some information. But closure plans won't be made public until next month.

This week Governor Pat McCrory's office accused a state toxicologist of lying under oath. That came after that toxicologist testified in a lawsuit to force Duke Energy to remove coal ash from one of its North Carolina plants. The testimony has ignited another round of debate over whether well water near Duke coal plants is safe to drink. WFAE environmental reporter David Boraks talked with All Things Considered host Lisa Worf about the news.   

Updated 11 p.m.

Governor Pat McCrory has signed a bill that will allow Duke Energy to store coal ash in place permanently at as many as half its plants in North Carolina. The bill also provides a permanent water supply to neighbors of Duke's coal ash ponds. 


Duke Energy has stopped draining coal ash ponds into Mountain Island Lake after recent county tests found elevated levels of arsenic in the water. State environmental regulators say they’re investigating whether Duke violated state law.

Republican lawmakers and Governor Pat McCrory have reached a compromise over coal ash avoiding another round in the courts.

Updated 9:11 p.m.

Lawmakers have reached a compromise with Gov. Pat McCrory on how to revise state law requiring cleanups at Duke Energy's North Carolina coal ash sites.  The new bill could let Duke leave ash where it is at some plants, instead of removing it.

Time may be running out for North Carolina lawmakers to reach a compromise on how to update the state's coal ash cleanup law. That's according to the chief sponsor of a bill that Gov. Pat McCrory vetoed last week.

 Gov. Pat McCrory has followed through on his threat to veto a bill revising the state's coal ash cleanup law. In a statement Monday night, McCrory said the bill's attempt to revive the Coal Ash Management Commission was unconstitutional. He also said the bill weakens environmental protections.

A superior court judge this week ordered Duke Energy to dig up and remove coal at four North Carolina plants - something it's already doing under the state's 2014 coal ash cleanup law.

Judge Paul Ridgeway ordered excavations of coal ash basins at the Riverbend plant in Mount Holly as well as plants on the Dan River, Asheville, and Wilmington.  State regulators had sued Duke in 2013 to seek cleanups at the four plants, and environmental groups later joined the suits.

Lawmakers are debating a bill that would give Duke Energy more time and flexibility in cleaning up coal ash at its North Carolina plants. A Duke official said Thursday that Duke needs the change because it can't hit state deadlines for removing the ash at most of its plants.

AP

As Duke Energy prepares to plead guilty to violating the federal Clean Water Act, it has started delivering bottled water to people with tainted wells close to its North Carolina coal ash pits.

Duke has long denied its 32 dumps in the state have contaminated the drinking water of its neighbors. But recent state-mandated tests found that more than 150 residential wells tested near Duke's dumps have failed to meet state groundwater standards.

AP Photo

North Carolina officials are advising dozens of residents near Duke Energy coal ash dumps not to drink or cook with water from their wells after tests showed contamination with toxic heavy metals.

 

In Their Words: Rep. Brian Turner

Apr 8, 2015
William Woody/Asheville Citizen-Times

This week, state lawmakers are on their version of spring break, and many local legislators are home.  That gave us an opportunity to sit down and talk about the current session with many of them.  We reached out to members of both parties, and will air excerpts from the interviews in the order they were conducted.  We start today with Representative Brian Turner.  He’s a Democrat representing Buncombe County.  The first-term legislator scored an upset win over Tim Moffitt in November’s election, one among just a few bright spots for Democrats in an otherwise tough election cycle.   

Associated Press

Duke Energy could legally leak pollutants from some of its coal ash dumps under new wastewater permits proposed by North Carolina regulators.

On Friday, just days after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Duke over the leaks, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued new draft permits for three of Duke's coal ash sites. More are to follow.

Dan River Recovering from Coal Ash Spill as Fines Weighed

Feb 2, 2015
Gerry Broome/AP

A year after the sudden collapse of an old drainage pipe triggered the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history, regulators say they are still working to determine how much to fine the nation's largest electricity company.