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article imageDuke Energy now facing criminal charges for coal ash pollution

By Karen Graham     Feb 22, 2015 in Environment
Being the largest electric power holding-company in the U.S. may not mean a "hill of beans," now that Duke Energy, headquartered in North Carolina is facing criminal charges of coal ash pollution in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Duke Energy is now facing federal criminal charges for pollution at five of its North Carolina power plants, including the Asheville facility. U.S. Attorneys across the state filed a series of criminal charges on Friday, accusing the energy giant of negligence in discharging coal ash and coal ash waste water into the state's rivers adjacent to the coal ash plants, in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Prosecutors contend that Duke Energy has been illegally dumping coal ash for years at their coal-fired power plants in Asheville, Eden, Moncure, Goldsboro and Mt. Holly, North Carolina. In the filings in relation to the Moncure power plant, permitting and inspection violations were also included.
Earlier in the week, Duke Energy let it slip out that negotiations with the U.S. Attorney general's office in Raleigh were ongoing regarding a $100 million settlement on the "pending coal ash criminal investigation" being conducted, according to WRAL. Details of the settlement were released in an earnings report filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The release said the energy company has set aside $100 million “related to the company’s assessment of probable financial exposure related to any agreement." None of this was confirmed by the U.S. Attorney general's office at the time the story broke about the filing of criminal charges against the energy company, But the settlement will still have to be approved by the court.
In a response to the announcement of the possible settlement in this case, Frank Holleman, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing a number of environmental groups, said in an email: "We informed Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources of these violations of the Clean Water Act in 2013, yet Duke Energy's polluting coal ash storage has yet to be cleaned up and has now resulted in criminal prosecutions. The important point is this: Duke Energy cannot buy its way out of its coal ash scandal, it has to clean its way out."
More about Duke energy, coal ash pollution, Criminal charges, Clean water act, settlement reached
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