The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. attorneys offices in North Carolina filed several criminal charges today against Duke Energy subsidiaries over its their role in the coal ash spills last year.
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According to a press release, the DOJ and the U.S. attorneys are alleging that Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Business Services allegedly violated the federal Clean Water Act at five of the utility's facilities:
Dan River Steam Station in Rockingham County
Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant in Chatham County
Asheville Steam Electric Generating Plant in Buncombe County
H.F. Lee Steam Electric Plant in Wayne County
Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County
The charges include failing to maintain equipment and illegally discharging coal ash wastewater from the Dan River, Lee, Asheville and Riverbend impoundments. In the largest incident, 39,000 tons of coal ash flowed into the Dan River.
Each count carries up to five years' probation, $2,500 to $25,000 per day of the violation; $200,000 or twice the gross gain or loss. The total could reach $100 million. Duke Energy has already set aside that amount in anticipation of the fines, cleanup and community service.
People who have been harmed by the coal ash spill and leaks from the impoundments could have rights under the Crime Victims Act. If you think you qualify, email USANCE.CrimeVictimsRightsAct@usdoj.gov no later than March 6.
Update, 5:57 p.m.: Several environmental groups have issued statements about the charges:
Frank Holleman, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center
“Today, Duke Energy has admitted that it committed environmental crimes in its coal ash storage across North Carolina. We informed Duke Energy and DENR of these violations of the Clean Water Act in 2013, yet Duke Energy’s polluting coal ash storage has yet to be cleaned up and has now resulted in criminal prosecutions. Duke Energy cannot buy its way out of its coal ash scandal, it has to clean its way out. Duke Energy and its executives must show the people of North Carolina that they are sorry for these crimes by moving the dangerous and polluting coal ash to safe, dry, lined storage away from our rivers and drinking water supplies.”
Amy Adams, N.C. Campaign Coordinator for Appalachian Voices, and former supervisor with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources:
“It’s good to see that federal enforcers have taken this issue seriously by diligently pursuing criminal charges and levying a substantial fine against Duke, and it’s good to see Duke acknowledge its culpability. However, we have yet to see that culpability turn into real action. There still remains leaking coal ash ponds at 10 of Duke’s sites, 10 communities in limbo, and a lot of ash that must be permanently and safely disposed.
“Important questions remain, like exactly how the money will be spent and whether any individuals will be named, but
most troubling is the currently unanswered question of whether DENR was aware of negligence and failed to act, or was unable to recognize the magnitude of the situation in the first place.”