Duke Energy has reached a proposed agreement with the US government that, if approved, would close a federal investigation of its subsidiaries, Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Business Services, related to last year’s Dan River coal ash spill as well as ash basin operations at other North Carolina coal plants.
The agreement is subject to review and approval by the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
On Feb. 2, 2014, a storm water pipe under a coal ash basin at the retired Dan River Steam Station broke, releasing coal ash into the Dan River in Rockingham County, North Carolina.
The company says it took effective action to stop the leak, care for the river and reform operations to help prevent similar events.
The agreement identifies nine misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with the spill and unauthorized discharges at Dan River Steam Station, Eden; maintenance issues at Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant, Moncure; and unauthorized discharges at Riverbend Steam Station in Mt. Holly, H.F. Lee Steam Electric Plant in Goldsboro, and the Asheville Steam Electric Generating Plant.
The company is addressing each of the issues through facility improvements or new permitting.
The agreement would also require Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress to pay a total of $68.2 million in fines and restitution and $34 million for community service and mitigation. These payments will be borne by shareholders, not customers.
The agreement includes a five-year probationary period with a court-appointed monitor to ensure compliance with all provisions.
Duke Energy would be required to submit environmental compliance plans to the court, including additional training, audits, reporting and other measures related to ash basins.
The company also would create an evaluation and claims process to help towns modernize their water treatment systems if they have been impacted by increased bromides from environmental equipment installed at certain coal plants.
Duke Energy would guarantee the payment of the penalties and the performance of the environmental compliance plans. The full agreement will be made public if it is accepted by the court.
If approved, the agreement would end the grand jury investigation of the company’s practices at its North Carolina coal ash basins.