The Raleigh News & Observer has responded to federal criminal charges filed against Duke Energy in North Carolina with a recognition of SELC's effectiveness in an editorial published Tuesday, February 24th.
"What Duke Energy has learned is that it's expensive to be cheap," says the paper.
If money talks, Duke Energy has gotten a heck of a lecture about its environmental misbehavior. For that, North Carolina should thank the diligent efforts of various environmental groups, especially the Southern Environmental Law Center and Thomas G. Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina …
One party that North Carolinians need not thank is the state Department of Environment and Natural
Resources.… When the Southern Environmental Law Center moved to file lawsuits to force Duke to clean up its leaking sites, DENR intervened with its own action, effectively blocking the group. Then DENR agreed to settle the problem with a fine of less than $100,000 with no demand that Duke Energy clean up its coal ash sites. DENR backed off the agreement after the Dan River spill exposed how lightly it was dealing with a major environmental threat, but the proposed settlement nonetheless stands in stark contrast to the $102 million federal penalty Walker's office negotiated with the utility.
"The U.S. Department of Justice is the only law enforcement agency that took this seriously and undertook a genuine and complete investigation. The state didn't," said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.