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The Daily Tar Heel

Hearing delayed in Duke Energy coal ash settlement

The fine comes from Duke’s role in a broken storm water pipe under a coal ash pond that sent almost 40,000 tons of waste into the Dan River. Negotiations have been ongoing since February.

In a statement, Duke Energy said the company has been in discussion with the state, but could not discuss specifics.

“The legal process encourages parties to try to resolve issues through negotiation and we’re working through that process now,” the statement said.

Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said as a multi-billion dollar company, a $6.6 million fine is too easily paid.

“Fines need to be proportionate to the company,” he said. “If they want to complain about the fine then they need to stop doing the thing that broke the rules and caused the fine.”

Frank Holleman, an attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said he would have expected more as well.

“Duke paid a $102 million penalty, therefore giving the nature of the violation, and what they’ve paid already, (we’d expect) the state would impose and Duke would pay a substantial penalty under N.C. law as well,” he said.

Crawford said the small fine points to the undue amount of influence Duke Energy has on the state.

“The DEQ is run by political appointees of McCrory and McCrory has a 28-year history as an employee of Duke Energy,” he said. “That doesn’t pass the smell test if you ask me.”

Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins said even a $102 million penalty does not constitute positive action to stop spills.

“There needs to be a fine that is truly a penalty and does not simply present a cost that is cheaper than doing what’s right to prevent spills from happening,” he said.

Perkins said Duke Energy has not cleaned a majority of the ash in the Dan River and instead the ash has settled in the bottom of the river.

“Duke Energy already got a generous break by getting to leave so much of their spill in the Dan River,” he said.

Duke Energy has proposed recently that cleanup of coal ash would cost customers extra every month, but Perkins said Duke’s figures were inflated.

“We have seen that there has been an extreme overinflation of the cost for what Duke has looked into for cleanup of the sites themselves,” he said.

Perkins said other cleanup operations, like with South Carolina Electric and Gas near Myrtle Beach, had not raised rates.

“It’s being done in South Carolina, no reason it cannot be done in North Carolina.”

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