Duke Energy appeals big fine by North Carolina on Dan River coal ash spill

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) said March 9 that it is appealing a $6.6m civil penalty assessed against the company last month by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in connection with the Dan River coal ash spill in 2014.

The state agency issued the fine last month in connection with a February 2014 coal ash spill at the company’s retired Dan River power plant in Eden, N.C. A ruptured pipe at the plant resulted in a major coal ash spill into the river that runs along the North Carolina-Virginia border.

Duke CEO Lynn Good has said the coal ash spill into the Dan River should never have happened and that Duke would learn from the incident. Major cleanup, task forces, government inquiries and other actions have ensued.

In May of 2014 Duke entered into an agreement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding cleanup of the coal ash release.

Duke, however, believes the fine proposed by North Carolina is unfair and is appealing the ruling with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings.

“This appeal requests that Duke Energy be treated in a manner that is fair and consistent with the law and other North Carolina companies,” Duke said in a news release.

In announcing its appeal, Duke said that multiple federal and states agencies have studied the Dan River and found “no physical impacts to fish or aquatic life” to date. Duke also said that EPA does not believe human health was affected by the ash release.

Duke Energy and regulators from North Carolina and Virginia continue monitoring the river to identify any potential long-term effects, Duke said.

More recently, the North Carolina DEQ issued 12 Notices of Violation Duke for allowing wastewater to leak from coal ash basins at 12 coal-fired facilities.

The violation notice requires Duke Energy to take corrective action and submit more information to the state environmental department. The utility has 30 days to respond to the violations and provide the data.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.