Duke Energy charged with criminal violations of Clean Water Act in Asheville, 4 other plants

COAL CUTTERS: The Buncombe County Board of Adjustment gave the go-ahead to a conditional use permit that will allow Duke Energy to begin construction on its natural gas facility. Duke says it plans to eliminate its Arden-based coal-fired operation by the end of 2019.

Update: On Friday, Feb. 20, the Associated Press reported that Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power company, has been charged with criminal violations of the Clean Water Act at five North Carolina power plants, including the plant in Asheville.

The AP reports that the charges are felony violations, while the News & Observer in Raleigh reports the power company was charged with nine misdemeanor violations.

Just yesterday, Beyond Coal and the Sierra Club released a study indicating that Duke’s Asheville plant may be exceeding federally regulated levels of sulfur dioxide, which causes adverse respiratory effects, aggravating asthmatic conditions. But the air isn’t the only thing Western North Carolina has to be worried about.

The News & Observer reported that Duke was charged with “dumping coal ash and wastewater discharges into four rivers across the state,” including the French Broad in WNC.

The AP says that Duke has been dumping coal ash illegally for years — not only at its Asheville and Eden sites, where last year’s spill into the Dan River stirred up the federal investigation, but at the coal plants in Moncure, Goldsboro and Mt. Holly as well.

The AP reports that Duke says it expects to pay $102 million in fines and restitution for the case —$68.2 million in fines, $34 million in restitution, reports The News & Observer.

For more on Duke’s charges, click here.

Wednesday, Feb. 18: The Associated Press reports that Duke Energy officials have said the company expects to settle the federal criminal investigation, following last year’s coal ash spill in North Carolina, for $100 million.

The spill occurred a little more than a year ago on Feb. 2, 2014, when a stormwater pipe burst beneath Duke Energy’s retired coal ash impoundment at the Dan River Power Station, pouring an estimated 30-39,000 tons of coal ash and millions of gallons of wastewater into the Dan River near Eden, N.C. The spill covered the Dan River in more than 70 miles of toxic sludge.

In articles from mid-2014, the AP reports that Duke spent $15 million on containing the spill. But that doesn’t account for the $100 million criminal investigation settlement, which focuses on the energy company’s environmental violations for unsafe coal ash storage, the most recent inspection reports for Duke’s 14 coal-fired power plants and rumors of alleged ties with state government and environmental agencies.

The Criminal Bill of Information filed against Duke Energy: Duke BOI

The press release from the Department of Justice: Duke Charges Press Release

About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] gmail.com. Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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2 thoughts on “Duke Energy charged with criminal violations of Clean Water Act in Asheville, 4 other plants

  1. boatrocker

    The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine.

    With apologies to sai Stephen King.

  2. Dionysis

    Unless and until Duke executives are charged, convicted and sentenced to prison, this flagrant environmental destruction will continue. They do this willfully and knowingly. Fines will just be paid by customers and we all know it.

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