In response to public comments, North Carolina officials recommended changes on Sept. 13 to a proposed consent order with Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) relating to the state’s lawsuits over environmental compliance issues at the coal-fired Asheville and Riverbend power plants.
Earlier this year, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources filed lawsuits to require the utility to address wastewater discharge permit compliance issues at the power plants in Asheville and Gaston County. The state in July proposed a consent order that recommended the utility address the environmental compliance issues and pay fines. The state also gave the public 30 days to comment on the proposed consent order. The comment period ended Aug. 14.
The department’s Division of Water Resources is filing a report in Mecklenburg and Wake counties summarizing the comments received by the division, addressing the expressed concerns, and proposing the following changes to the consent order:
- tightening timelines associated with various documents to be submitted by Duke Energy;
- expanding parameters to be monitored at unpermitted discharges, or seeps;
- establishing timelines for the division to review various documents submitted by Duke Energy; and
- strengthening language explaining that corrective action will be required where regulations impose a duty to take corrective action.
North Carolina Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway will use the report as part of his consideration of the proposed consent order, the department noted in a Sept. 13 statement. The consent order is not final until issued by the court.
The state said it received 4,939 comments during the 30-day comment period. Approximately 93% of the comments were letters that made similar points in a nearly identical manner. Comments originated from citizens, advocacy groups and others. Many comments requested that several issues be addressed in the consent orders, including: shortening the proposed timelines for required activities; eliminating the proposed studies; and requiring that Duke Energy remove the coal ash to a location away from waterways and lakes, place the ash in a lined landfill and fully remediate the sites.
The proposed consent order imposes an initial fine of $99,112. Also, if the companies fail to comply in a timely manner with any provision of the consent order, the companies would be subject to fines of $1,000 per day for the first 30 days, and $5,000 per day thereafter for each violation.