Officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have announced they are abandoning a proposed settlement with Duke Energy over the clean-up of coal ash. The proposed settlement would have levied Duke with a $99,000 fine, but had no requirement to remove or clean-up coal ash at two sites in the state.
In case you don't recall the details, here's a quick recap:
- Environmentalists filed a federal lawsuit in early 2013 contending Duke was violating state groundwater regulations and the federal Clean Water Act.
- DENR stepped in, blocking the federal lawsuit and started negotiating a settlement with Duke.
- Critics called it a sweetheart deal
- DENR has been widely criticized for the proposed settlement as well as its relationship with Duke.
- DENR/Duke relationship is now under investigation by a federal grand jury.
Today's decision means a state lawsuit will move forward. The Southern Environmental Law Center is now a co-plaintiff in the case. It wants coal ash moved away from waterways in the state and into lined landfills. Duke has 33 unlined coal ash ponds at 14 locations across the state. A stormwater pipe running under one of those broke last month, setting off the third largest spill of its kind in US history.
Meanwhile, DENR also announced that it will join with the Environmental Protection Agency to pursue a joint approach to an enforceable resolution of violations associated with the Dan River spill and resolve Clean Water Act violations at other Duke Energy facilities.