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article imageDuke Energy to appeal $25.1 million fine by NC regulators

By Karen Graham     Mar 24, 2015 in Environment
Charlotte - North Carolina-based Duke Energy announced today it is prepared to contest a $25.1 million civil penalty issued by the State Department of Environment and Natural Resources on March 10.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, or D.E.N.R. cited the environmental damages penalty against Duke Energy as being the largest to date in North Carolina. A previous penalty amounted to $5.6 million against a Texas-based company in 1986 for air-quality violations.
Shares of Duke Energy stock dropped 68-cents to $76.12 in trading Tuesday morning as news of the appeal was announced. The energy giant says it will file a formal appeal with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings by April 9. The game plan, according to the company is to demonstrate specific instances where the DENR "acted contrary to law, exceeded its authority or jurisdiction, and didn't follow proper rules and procedures," according to RTT News.
As Digital Journal reported on February 22, Duke Energy had set aside $100 million “related to the company’s assessment of probable financial exposure related to any agreement." But the $25.1 million penalty has been assessed for just one facility owned by the company, the company’s Sutton Plant near Wilmington, N.C.
federal prosecutors are still pursuing a much larger settlement for the spill of millions of gallons of toxic coal ash from a plant on the Dan River near the Virginia border. The $100 million Duke Energy had set aside was to be used for penalties for this environmental disaster.
“This is a difficult step, but we cannot allow this level of regulatory overreach to go unchallenged,” Duke’s North Carolina president, Paul Newton, said in a statement. “The actions by N.C. DENR send a chilling message to the North Carolina business community.”
The Charlotte Observer is reporting that records show that contamination at the Sutton plant was well known before the DENR's fine was announced earlier this month, and for that matter, was known before the coal ash spill on the Dan River in February 2014. Ash chemicals found in test wells around the Sutton plant had been well above state standards for as many as five years.
Yet Duke Energy has been reporting groundwater test results since 1990, all of them allegedly showing results within state standards. “Our work has been proactive and focused on the well-being of the community,” Newton said. “We took accountability and addressed the issue at Sutton ourselves.”
More about Duke energy, groundwater contamination, civil penalty, North carolina, ash basins
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