Duke Energy and state officials dine at North Carolina governor’s mansion
A story published by WRAL highlights the relationship between North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s administration and the nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy (where Governor McCrory was an employee for 28 years). While the state is responsible for regulating the utility, a timeline of recent events raises questions about the state’s enforcement against Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution.
MARCH 10: North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ – formerly DENR) assesses a $25M penalty on Duke Energy for coal ash violations at Duke’s Sutton Steam Plant in Wilmington, according to public filings with the Office of Administrative Hearings in the case, Duke Energy v. DENR.
APRIL 9: Duke Energy challenges the $25M penalty.
MAY 14: Duke Energy pleads guilty 18 times to 9 coal ash federal criminal violations of the Clean Water Act committed across the state of North Carolina, including crimes that led directly to the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill.
Duke Energy is placed on criminal probation for five years.
JUNE 1: Governor Pat McCrory, his top environmental regulator—DENR Secretary Donald van der Vaart, his chief of staff, and his general counsel meet for a private dinner at the Executive Mansion with Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, the utility's general counsel, and the president of the company's North Carolina operations.
SEPT. 29: DEQ settles the $25 million fine assessed on one coal ash storage site, in exchange for $7 million for all 14 Duke coal ash sites in North Carolina, or exactly $500,000 per site – a 98% reduction of the original fine for the Sutton violations. The settlement also purports to resolve all groundwater claims against Duke Energy, including future violations.