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Duke Energy to pay US$100 million in coal ash settlement

World Coal,

Duke Energy has set aside US$100 million in order to resolve a federal criminal grand jury investigation into its coal ash management.

The investigation commenced one year ago, following a spill of up to 39 000 t of ash into the Dan River on 2 February 2014. Approximately 27 million gal. of coal ash slurry is also believed to have been released.

Duke, the largest utilities company in the US, has said it would pay the penalty under a proposed agreement that would resolve the investigation. However, the company still faces joint state and Environmental Protection Agency enforcement, as well as numerous additional lawsuits that were filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and advocacy groups.

In a statement, the DENR said that it is not part of the negotiations over the federal charges. However, the statement also made clear that ‘this settlement would not resolve DENR’s civil litigation over violations at coal ash ponds, which is ongoing. We also continue to investigate violations of state groundwater standards and to maintain our enforced partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency for civil violations of the Clean Water Act.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups argue that state regulators are lax in holding Duke accountable for the environmental impacts of its operations. In December, Duke admitted to regulators that more than 3 million gal./d of toxic chemicals were leaking into local lakes and rivers. The leaks have been traced to 200 different seeps at 14 coal-fired plants.

The February 2014 spill itself affected approximately 70 miles of the river, but officials maintained that drinking water downstream remained safe for consumption.

Edited from various sources by Emma McAleavey.

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