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Duke Energy and US government end Clean Air Act litigation

Published by
World Coal,

Following a 15 yr long case filed against Duke Energy in 2000 by the U.S. Justice Department on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act at 25 Duke Energy coal-fired power plants in North Carolina, the company and the US government have come to an agreement to end the case. This in turn would end the remaining component of a civil lawsuit (USA v. Duke Energy).

The government has subsequently dismissed claims against 12 of plants, which leaves 13 units as part of the lawsuit, 11 of which Duke Energy has since closed.

The government indicated that certain maintenance and repair projects at the power plants were “major modifications,” as defined by the Clean Air Act, and that the company failed to obtain permits for the projects and install the “best available emission controls,” as required.

Duke Energy asserted that the company did not violate the law because the projects were “routine,” as defined by the Clean Air Act, or did not result in a net increase in emissions – and thus did not require permits and additional emission controls.

In a settlement agreement filed with the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, in Greensboro, the company said it denies the alleged violations, maintains it complied fully with federal law, and is agreeing to settle the case solely to avoid the costs and uncertainties of continued litigation.

Under the agreement the company would close, two units at its five-unit, 1140 MW Allen power plant in Belmont, N.C. – the two still-operating units that remain part of the litigation, by 31 December 2024. Duke Energy would spend US$4.4 million on environmental projects and donations. As well as a US$975 000 civil penalty to the government, separate from the environmental projects and donations expenditures. The company also would comply with new, lower emissions limits at those two units prior to closure.

The agreement is subject to court approval.

Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs

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