Press Release | September 29, 2015

Press Statement on Sutton Groundwater Fine Settlement

Chapel Hill, N.C.- This morning, Duke Energy and NC DENR (now DEQ) announced a settlement of an appeal of a groundwater fine at the Sutton site in North Carolina that purports to abandon groundwater enforcement at all 14 power plants.   

In response to the announcement, Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Frank Holleman released the following statement:

“This settlement is not about the Sutton groundwater fine. This agreement is part of a concerted effort to block citizens from enforcing water pollution laws to protect our waters. The state is now trying to abandon enforcement of groundwater laws in cases it originally filed in order to block citizens from going to federal court against Duke, and to dredge up another version of the 2013 proposed sweetheart settlement that was roundly rejected by the public because it required no cleanups. 

“In its first days of existence, DEQ has voluntarily prevented itself from taking action to protect North Carolinians from coal ash pollution of their drinking water by giving Duke amnesty for past, present, and future violations–even agreeing to limit the state’s ability to monitor Duke’s pollution–including at sites like Buck in Salisbury and Allen on Lake Wylie, where residents have severe concerns about their drinking water supplies.

“In terms of action, this settlement doesn’t appear to require Duke to do anything it wasn’t going to do anyway.  The proposed groundwater actions at Sutton have already been laid out in earlier filings by DEQ and Duke.  No specifics are set out for any other site.  All that this settlement requires is for Duke to do what CAMA required, anyway.

“DEQ abandons protection of Sutton Lake, which it has recently acknowledged to be a water of the state.  Now, in settling a proposed fine against Duke for groundwater contamination at Sutton, DEQ is giving Duke a pass on its pollution of Sutton Lake – an important and popular fishing lake in the Wilmington region – by promising not to enforce the law.”

Background: In the settlement announced today, DEQ is accepting $7 million for 14 coal ash sites, or $500,000 per site, cutting the Sutton fine by 98%.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ###

About the Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

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Press Contacts

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450