The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources plans to fine Duke Energy for groundwater contamination from two coal ash ponds near Wilmington.
State officials decided to fine Duke as they wait for the outcome of legal action against the utility company.
In lawsuits filed last summer, officials say Duke has illegally leaked toxic chemicals like thallium from coal ash ponds.
These are 33 basins across North Carolina full of ash left over from burning coal. Two of these basins are at the L.V. Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County.
Some conservationists say Duke has violated environmental laws for years and the state has taken for too long to exercise its authority.
Duke has two weeks to respond to the notice of potential fines, which can be up to $25,000 per day.