The parties in the civil enforcement cases against Duke Energy for coal ash clean up at the company’s Asheville and Riverbend plants will be back in court tomorrow battling over whether Duke Energy can claim the pending criminal grand jury proceedings as a reason to delay releasing information sought in the civil context.
The organizations originally seeking to require clean-up at those plants until the state stepped in and filed suit — now intervenors in the lawsuits — argue that the pending grand jury proceedings should have no impact on the company’s obligations to produce evidence in the civil cases and expedite compliance and clean-up at the plants at issue.
The secrecy afforded grand jury proceedings relates to the identity of witnesses, the substance of their testimony and the deliberations of grand jurors, not to facts and information otherwise discoverable in a civil lawsuit, the groups argued in papers filed with the court last night.
“This civil enforcement has been underway more than a year, since March 26, 2013, when the foundation gave DENR and [Duke Energy] notice of its intent to enforce the Clean Water Act to require a clean-up of defendant’s illegal pollution of Mountain Island Lake,” the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation said in its papers filed with the court. “Since that time there has been a remarkable series of efforts to delay the enforcement of anti-pollution laws against Defendant’s illegal pollution at Mountain Island Lake.”
The Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance and Western North Carolina Alliance, now intervenors in the case concerning the Ashevile plant, made similar arguments in opposition to Duke Energy’s request in their brief filed with the court.
A hearing on this issue is scheduled for 10 a.m. tomorrow in either Raleigh or Henderson, N.C., depending on the status of jury deliberations at the end of today in another case before the court.