By: Waterkeeper Alliance
New York, NY — February 19, 2015 — Waterkeeper Alliance responded today to an announcement that Duke Energy—the nation’s largest private utility—expects to pay $100 million to resolve a federal investigation into the company’s suspected crimes surrounding its mismanagement of toxic coal ash basins in North Carolina. Federal prosecutors began the investigation last year, soon after a stormwater pipe collapsed beneath a 60-year-old coal ash impoundment at the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, North Carolina. The $100-million deal would be the latest in a string of financial liabilities related to coal ash that have plagued the company since the Dan River spill.
Duke Energy still faces substantial civil liabilities that could result from a suite of lawsuits brought by environmental groups and state regulators for ongoing illegal pollution at all of the utility’s 14 coal ash sites in North Carolina. Prior to the Dan River spill, Waterkeeper Alliance, together with local Waterkeeper organizations and other partners, documented illegal pollution leaking from Duke Energy coal ash ponds and threatened to sue the company, leading to a total of seven lawsuits that are currently pending before state and federal courts in North Carolina.
Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Waterkeeper Alliance stated: “We now know without any doubt that our joint legal action and rapid response to the Dan River spill paved the way for a federal criminal investigation into Duke Energy’s mismanagement of coal ash dumps across North Carolina. Our continuing civil litigation to address Duke’s illegal water pollution could force it to internalize the costs of its contamination, and lead to deeper impacts to the company’s bottom line.”
“The days when Duke Energy was held above the law in North Carolina are coming to an end,” said Pete Harrison, Waterkeeper Alliance attorney and US Coal Campaign Manager. “Unfortunately, it took the relentless efforts of Waterkeeper Alliance, our local Riverkeepers and other partners in North Carolina to hold Duke Energy accountable. Without pressure from these citizen groups, government officials would continue to turn a blind eye to the company’s illegal pollution.”
Waterkeeper Alliance was among the first on the scene when Duke Energy’s coal-fired Dan River Steam Station collapsed and spewed 140,000 tons of toxic coal ash sludge and wastewater into the Dan River and continues to fight against the company’s toxic coal ash pollution in communities across the country.
Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement uniting more than 240 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy in issues that affect our waterways, from pollution to climate change. Waterkeepers patrol and protect more than 2 million square miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. For more information please visit:www.waterkeeper.org