Duke Energy

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

At least 30,000 tons of coal ash poured through a broken Duke Energy stormwater pipe and into the Dan River earlier this month. The spill is the third largest of its kind in US history.

But that spill was much smaller than an accident in Tennessee six years ago.

It was the middle of the night, three days before Christmas in 2008 when part of a retention wall at a Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash pond ruptured.  A dike failed and millions of gallons of potentially toxic waste were unleashed.

Governor Pat McCrory
Hal Goodtree / Flickr Creative Commons

Governor Pat McCrory has sent a letter to Duke Energy’s CEO asking the company to remove coal ash from sites near waterways. In the letter McCrory says his administration has expressed its primary desire that coal ash ponds be moved away from waterways.

“This is a good development but we’re still dealing with words and not actions,” said Frank Holleman is senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.”

Wake Forest University graduate student Max Messinger shows the unmanned aerial vehicle he flew over the coal ash pond where a spill took place earlier this month. A group at WFU provided an independent estimate of how much coal ash spilled into the Dan R
Jeff Tiberii

Officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced Tuesday they might require Duke Energy to remove all coal ash at the site of a massive spill near the Virginia border.

DENR sent a letter to Duke this week, three weeks after the largest spill of its kind in U.S. history. In the letter the state agency informed the utility it’s considering changes to a permit that regulates how much pollutants the company can legally release into the river. The possible change does not apply to the company’s 29 other unlined coal ash ponds.

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

  

This week, the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, DENR, is testing fish tissue in the Dan River for contamination from the Duke Energy coal ash spill earlier this month.  The Southern Environmental Law Center claims they warned Duke Energy and DENR of a potential spill last year. 

Power plant in Goldsboro, NC.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dukeenergy/11441208065/

NC WARN, a progressive environmental non-profit, is teaming up with an unlikely partner: the John Locke Foundation. The two organizations share a desire to increase competition in the power industry and challenge Duke Energy's monopoly on electricity in the state.  

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

 

Earlier this month a stormwater pipe running under a coal ash pond in Eden ruptured. It did the following:

Tom Augspurger (l), USFWS, taking core sample during February 8th reconnaissance of Dan River coal ash spill. (l-r) Tom Augsperger, USFWS, John Fridell, USFWS, Rick Smith, Duke Energy. Photo by Steve Alexander, USFWS..
Steve Alexander / USFWS

Federal prosecutors have handed out more subpoenas in a criminal investigation stemming from the recent coal ash spill in Eden. The government is seeking documents from 20 current and former employees at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Prosecutors are also calling on those individuals to testify before a grand jury. The subpoenas seek records related to cash, items of value or investments that state employees might have received from Duke.

The Dan River flows through Danville, VA (cropped)
Jeff Tiberii

State officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have told Duke Energy to stop using a stormwater pipe running under a coal ash pond in Eden. (This is a different pipe than the one that ruptured 17 days ago, causing the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.) Following that spill at a retire coal fired power plant north of Greensboro, many environmentalists and media members questioned the durability of this second, smaller pipe. Duke has said repeatedly this pipe is structurally sound and water running through it, is clean. DENR tested some water and determined that not to be the case.

Duke Energy

On the afternoon of Sunday, Feb. 3, a security guard at a Duke Energy plant near the North Carolina-Virginia border noticed the water level in a reservoir pond was dropping quickly.

He told facility managers, and what ensued was a chain of relayed messages: First to environmental professionals working for Duke; then local authorities in nearby Eden, N.C., Rockingham County, N.C., and Danville, Va.; the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management; and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The Dan River flows through Danville, VA (cropped)
Jeff Tiberii

The federal government has issued subpoenas to Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The U.S. Attorney is investigating a suspected felony. The subpoenas dated Monday seek a wide range of documents, reports and photographs related to the recent coal ash spill into the Dan River. It’s not clear what felony the federal government suspects Duke or DENR of having committed. A metal pipe beneath a coal ash pond ruptured 11 days ago, sending potentially toxic material into the river. 

The Dan River flows through Danville, VA (cropped)
Jeff Tiberii

More than 100 people filled the city hall chambers in Danville, Virginia last night. They heard from federal and state officials about clean-up efforts following a recent coal ash spill in Eden, NC. A pipe underneath a coal ash pond there ruptured ten days ago,

 Image of a branch that has been subjected to freezing rain within the previous 24 hours. Note the branch is completly encapsulated in ice. Some melting has occurred as temperatures were around 0 Celsius
David Park, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on 27 Dec 2009. / Wikipedia Creative Commons

While the state transportation department is already out salting roads, utility companies are closely monitoring the weather forecast today.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Ryan Ellis said light snow is likely this afternoon, getting heavy tomorrow into Thursday. By tomorrow afternoon, he said, ice will coat much of the state.

Jane Pritchard is a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives. She said it would take a heavy snowfall to mess with power lines, but just a half-inch of ice can do a lot of damage.

Cree's LED streetlights on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill
cree.com

Those 8,000 new street lamps will save money, and are a green choice.

The Town of Cary has announced a partnership with Duke Energy Progress to switch out most of its high-pressure sodium streetlamps (the yellow kind) with LED lamps (the white kind).

LEDs are more easily directed in a specific direction and also more energy efficient. So not only can the town do a better job of putting the light on the road (as opposed to spilling off into the neighboring areas), they'll also save an estimated $200,000 a year.

Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired generating facility in Gaston County, NC.  Riverbend will be retired by 2015 as part of Duke Energy’s strategy to modernize its power plants.
Duke Energy via Flickr, Creative Commons

Environmental groups are asking to take part in negotiations over how to clean-up contaminated ground water sites. The state Division of Environment and Natural Resources – DENR – is trying to reach a settlement with Duke Energy about how to clean up sites contaminated with coal ash, from power plants. Many conservationists don’t think DENR’s proposed settlements will go far enough – and have asked a judge for permission to join the state’s lawsuit as plaintiffs.

Duke Energy provides electricity for most of North Carolina since the 2012 merger.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy is introducing a program to provide its largest customers with renewable power.   The utility's 'Green Source Rider' initiative would give companies that use large amounts of power an option to use renewable energy in their new or expanded facilities.

Duke Energy will ask participating customers what their new power preference is: wind, solar or some other source.  Spokesman Jeff Brooks says it's then up to the utility to find them ample amounts..

Duke Energy provides electricity for most of North Carolina since the 2012 merger.
Duke Energy

  

Attorney General Roy Cooper is challenging a rate hike by Duke Energy. The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the increase of 4.5 percent by Duke Energy last week.

Duke Energy's Cliffside Steam Station
Duke Energy

State Attorney General Roy Cooper says he will appeal Duke Energy's latest rate hike. The North Carolina Utilities Commission  approved a plan this week allowing the nation's largest utility a to increase consumer rates by 4.5 percent for the first two years and by 5.1 percent in the third year. 

Duke Energy provides electricity for most of North Carolina since the 2012 merger.
Duke Energy

Duke Energy is dropping its practice of paying for retirees' health benefits.  The country's largest utility joins companies like IBM, General Electric and Time Warner in the policy change.

 Instead of covering insurance for more than 14,000 retirees, Duke Energy will give them a yearly stipend.  Retirees can use that payment to buy their own coverage.  Dave Scanzoni is a company spokesman.

Electric power meter, energy
Creative Commons/Jc3s5h

Duke Energy has filed a motion to dismiss an appeal of the ruling that confirmed the merger with Progress Energy. 

The appeal from the environmental group NC WARN says the state Utilities Commission was wrong to exclude outside parties from an investigation of the merger.  Regulators were looking into why Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson was ousted as leader soon after the deal was complete last year. 

Electric power meter, energy
Creative Commons/Jc3s5h

State regulators are considering a plan to allow Duke Energy to charge customers a little more as it increases energy efficiency.

The Utilities Commission held a public hearing yesterday to discuss a proposal from the utility.  Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks says it calls for the company to invest in energy efficiency programs while allowing the utility to recover lost revenue.

The Brunswick Nuclear Plant was ranked one of the most vulnerable nuclear reactors to a terrorist attack.
Doc Searls via Wikimedia

A new study commissioned by the Defense Department says every nuclear reactor in America is ill-prepared for a terrorist attack. North Carolina's Brunswick Nuclear Plant was ranked among the most vulnerable to attack, because of it's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.

Kim Crawford is a spokesperson for Duke Energy, which manages four nuclear sites in North Carolina, including Brunswick. She says their plants are safe.

solar panels
Strata Solar

A new six megawatt solar farm is under construction the Orange County community of White Cross. When it’s completed, it will be the second largest in the Triangle. The project is being designed by Chapel Hill based company, Strata Solar. The firm's Blair Schoof says when it's up and running, the 35-acre farm will provide energy for about 750 homes.

Strata Solar is the state's largest solar developer, responsible for generating more than 145 megawatts around the state. Schoof says two farms in the Triangle area are already operational with eight more planned for next year.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Duke Energy has reached a tentative settlement with state regulators regarding lawsuits over leaks from its coal ash ponds in Asheville and on the Catawba River.  The company has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.  The consent order would require the company to determine the cause and the extent of those leaks into groundwater and into Mountain Island Lake, the source of Charlotte’s water supply.  Susan Massengale with the state division of water quality says the agreement lays out a timeline for Duke to do that.

The Shearon Harris nuclear power plant
Nuclear Regulatory Commission / nrc.gov

Federal regulators are investigating the Shearon Harris nuclear plant near Raleigh. They want to know how a flaw in the reactor vessel went undetected or unreported for over a year. News & Observer reporter John Murawski fills in host Frank Stasio on the latest.

An electrical power substation in Orange County.
Laura Candler

Duke Energy Progress has completed upgrades to substations in Durham and Greensboro designed to cut down on copper thefts. 

The company has changed the wire it uses, added security cameras and installed more lighting to keep thieves away.  Authorities have reported frequent copper thefts from the Parkwood Tie Station in Durham and the Main Substation in Greensboro.  The metal goes for nearly $3.00 a pound in resale.

An aerial view of the site.
Duke Energy

A large parcel of undeveloped land near Siler City has been chosen by Duke Energy to take part in the utility's Site Readiness Program. The utility selected a total of 17 sites in the Carolinas, ten of which are in North Carolina. Duke Energy's Jeff Brooks says the 1700-acre Chatham County tract will be assessed for its potential to lure large industry and manufacturing to the area and calls it a "win-win" for everyone.

Stumps like this one have become more common in Greensboro neighborhoods. Duke energy says it cuts when necessary. Residents think the company is being too aggressive.
Jeff Tiberii

Some residents in Greensboro are eagerly awaiting the details of a proposed tree ordinance. A city council subcommittee finished the draft for the ordinance this week, but it has not yet been made public.

The new measure comes in response to a dispute between property owners and Duke Energy over the company’s practice of cutting trees.  Nancy Vaughan is an at-large City Council member who helped write the ordinance draft.

"We were able to protect private property as well as public right of way," says  Vaughan.

One of Progress Energy's solar energy farms.
Duke Energy / Progress Energy

The North Carolina utility company Progress Energy is among the nations leaders in solar production. Last year the utility company produced almost 70 megawatts of new solar generating capacity. The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) says that’s the 8th highest output of all U.S. utility companies.

Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired generating facility in Gaston County, NC.  Riverbend will be retired by 2015 as part of Duke Energy’s strategy to modernize its power plants.
Duke Energy via Flickr, Creative Commons

A new study from Duke University says new air quality standards could spur a shift away from coal power to natural gas as a means of generating electricity.  A natural gas boom has already made it almost as cheap as coal to turn into electricity, but when researchers factored in new emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency, they found that most coal electricity will become as expensive as gas, even if gas prices rise.

Stumps like this one have become more common in Greensboro neighborhoods. Duke energy says it cuts when necessary. Residents think the company is being too aggressive.
Jeff Tiberii

Greensboro residents are upset with Duke Energy again over its tree trimming practices in the city, this time because of pruning around major transmission lines. Concerned locals are taking to Facebook and asking local leaders to do more.

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