Federal prosecutors says Duke Energy’s guilty plea and agreement to pay a record $102 million fine for seepage from its coal ash ponds should ‘speak loudly’ to other corporations that fail to protect the environment.
EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles told reporters while the agreement requires Duke to comply with the law, they are no longer willing to take Duke’s word for it that the clean-up is being done in a timely and satisfactory manner:
“An independent, third party monitor appointed by the court is going to audit their operation nationwide, not just in North Carolina, to make sure they are meeting their responsibilities,” explained Giles. “Those reports are going to be made public so Duke is held publicly accountable. We are sending a clear message to managers and businesses across the country take your responsibility to protect communities seriously.”
Duke will also be required to set aside $3.4 billion, a guarantee that it has the money necessary to address the seepage problems as it works to close 32 ash ponds across North Carolina.
Prosecutors noted Thursday that Duke Energy executives brought much of this trouble on themselves, failing to approve $20,000 for a robotic camera to inspect an aged stormwater pipe that failed in February 2014 dumping 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
To hear more from the EPA’s administrator for enforcement, click below. To read the plea agreement, click here.