Judge approves Duke’s coal ash deal with the federal government

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) issued a May 14 statement regarding federal court approval of an agreement with the U.S. government to close a federal investigation of its subsidiaries – Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Business Services – related to the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill and ash basin operations at other North Carolina coal plants.

Duke said: Today’s decision by Judge Malcolm Howard officially closes this chapter in our company’s history. We’ve used the Dan River incident as an opportunity to set a new, industry-leading standard for the management of coal ash. We are implementing innovative and sustainable closure solutions for all of our ash basins, building on the important steps we’ve taken over the past year to strengthen our operations. Our highest priority is to operate our system as safely as possible for the customers and communities we serve.”

Duke said they has been a year of meaningful progress and improvement since the Dan River spill in early 2014, which gave it a huge public relations black eye and made it a bullseye for criticism over coal ash disposal practices by itself and also the power industry in general. Duke’s actions since then include:

  • Moving ash in South Carolina to excavate and close basins at the retired W.S. Lee plant, with plans to excavate basins at the Robinson facility as well.
  • Continuing to remove and safely reuse ash from the Asheville Steam Electric Generating Plant to a structural fill at the airport.
  • Revamping the organization to strengthen coal ash management, creating new teams exclusively devoted to this important work.
  • Developing industry-leading solutions to safely close ash basins with guidance from some of the nation’s top experts in ash management, engineering and the environment.
  • Conducting comprehensive engineering reviews by outside experts, including video inspections of pipes at ash basins, to ensure the system continues to operate safely.
  • Participating in a more robust monitoring and reporting process for water seeps at ash basins, sharing detailed information with the state so regulators can make appropriate permitting decisions.
  • Recycling nearly half of the coal ash produced today and aggressively looking for innovative new options to safely reuse even more of the material.

Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States with approximately $121 billion in total assets. Its regulated utility operations serve approximately 7.3 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company.

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.