Duke Energy fined $6.6M by NC regulators for coal ash violations

RALEIGH, N.C. – Duke Energy has been fined $6.6 million by North Carolina regulators for environmental violations related to the company’s coal ash spill that occurred in Eden two years ago.

The fine covers civil penalties the company committed before, during and after 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River north of Greensboro. The penalties only account for violations that Duke Energy pled guilty to in criminal court in May 2015.

“The state is holding Duke Energy accountable so that it and others understand there are consequences to breaking the law,” Secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality Donald R. van der Vaart said in a news release. “We are moving forward with enforcement actions against Duke Energy for not complying with environmental laws that protect North Carolina’s environment from catastrophes like the Dan River spill.”

The agency says the civil penalties could be increased because this fine covers violations that Duke Energy admitted when it pleaded guilty to federal pollution crimes nine months ago. The company agreed to pay $102 million in fines and restitution

The toxic sludge that resulted from the spill spread 70 miles downstream. It took crews nearly a week just to stop the spill.

It sparked outrage from environmental groups who worried about the toxic substances found in the ash and its impact on water quality, crops and wildlife.

Some people living near Duke Energy’s 14 coal facilities have found contamination in their wells, but Duke says there is no proof any of it came from the ash.

The company apologized for the spill and worked to clean up the river. After months of work, crews could only remove less than 10 percent of the ash that spilled.

Six months after the spill, the state passed the Coal Ash Management Act, giving Duke Energy until 2029 at the latest to shut down and clean up every one of its ash ponds.

Duke Energy said in a statement that it’s reviewing whether to challenge the fine. The company says water quality in the Dan River returned to normal quickly after the spill.

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