Duke Energy Hit With Record State Fine

Mar 10, 2015

The Sutton Power Plant near Wilmington.
Credit Duke Energy

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has fined Duke Energy more than $25 million over coal ash leaks at a retired power plant in Wilmington. 

According to DENR, it’s the largest environmental fine in the state’s history – five times higher than any previous fine. It is punishment for coal ash leaching into the ground water at the Sutton Power Plant over several years.

Contaminants included arsenic, selenium, and boron. 

“Today’s enforcement action continues the aggressive approach this administration has taken on coal ash,” DENR Secretary Donald van der Vaart said in a statement. “In addition to holding the utility accountable for past contamination we have found across the state, we are also moving expeditiously to remove the threat to our waterways and groundwater from coal ash ponds statewide.”

The fine only applies to violations at the Sutton plant. Duke owns thirteen other coal ash storage facilities across the state.

“We have been monitoring groundwater at the Sutton Plant ash basins since 1990 and routinely report that data to state regulators,” said Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks. “We’re currently following a state-directed process to enhance groundwater assessments at our facilities. The information will add clarity to current data, inform closure decisions and help determine any future monitoring requirements.”

The DENR fine comes a few weeks after federal prosecutors filed nine charges against Duke Energy. Prosecutors say Duke violated the Clean Water Act by discharging coal ash into four North Carolina rivers.

Duke has thirty days to appeal the fine. 

“We are currently reviewing the notice from DENR and will respond to the state,” said Brooks.