Duke presses to have $25 million coal ash fine dismissed

Ddukelogouke Energy has filed an appeal to the $25 million fine issued by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), calling the penalty both ‘unnecessary’ and ‘excessive.’

The McCrory administration touted the fine issued last month for groundwater contamination at the Sutton Plant near Wilmington as the state’s “largest-ever penalty for environmental damages.”

But officials with Duke argue in their petition the fine deviates from “DENR’s history of responsible regulation” and fails to consider the cooperation by Duke Energy.

Here’s more from the press release issued Thursday by the Charlotte-based utility:

“The Sutton plant generated electricity for millions of customers and operated in compliance with North Carolina pe-suttonlaw and environmental regulations,” said Paul Newton, state president – North Carolina. “We closely monitored groundwater, shared the data with the state for decades, and voluntarily acted to ensure residents near the Sutton plant continue to have a high-quality water supply.”

The appeal, filed with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, describes a number of instances where the company believes NC DENR’s actions violated state law, the regulator’s own rules and procedures, public policy and the longstanding interpretation of the regulations, including:

  • Fining the company for 1,822 days of alleged groundwater violations despite having sample results for just 27 days.
  • Creating an entirely new methodology to calculate the fine that dramatically increased the size of the penalty, making it $24 million higher than similar fines issued by NC DENR.
  • Failure to consider naturally occurring substances and other potential sources of groundwater contamination in the area.

Duke stresses the utility is working to close 32 ash basins across North Carolina, but cannot remove the coal ash until it has the proper wastewater permits from the state. According to the Charlotte Business Journal, Duke applied for those permits in 2014.

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