Duke sets aside $100m for settlement of federal issues in Dan River spill

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) said Feb. 18 that it is in settlement discussions with the U.S. government related to the ongoing federal grand jury investigation of the February 2014 Dan River coal ash spill and ash basin operations at other North Carolina coal plants.

The company said it expects a proposed agreement could be reached and filed in the next several days for consideration by the court. If approved, the proposed agreement would resolve the ongoing grand jury investigation of the company’s coal ash basin management.

“We also learned from the challenges of the Dan River coal ash spill,” Duke CEO Lynn Good said during a fourth quarter earnings call on Feb. 18. Duke plans to comply with new state and federal standards on coal ash.

Good said she could not make substantial comments on the proposed settlement because it involves an active legal case.

Reported results for the fourth quarter of 2014 include a charge of approximately $100m related to the company’s assessment of probable financial exposure related to any agreement.

Since the spill at the recently-retired Dan River plant, Duke Energy has conducted a major operation, under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to excavate and monitor coal ash in the river. The company has also performed thousands of tests from the plant to Kerr Lake in partnership with state and federal agencies to study conditions in the river. Ongoing monitoring programs in the Dan River and Roanoke River basins include fish community assessments, fish tissue analysis and other important samples. All scientific indicators point to the fact that the river is thriving, Duke Energy said recently. 

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.