Following years of protests and legal challenges from environmental groups, justice is finally catching up to Duke Energy. The company has accepted responsibility and begun to negotiate the amount of it will pay in response to a number of criminal charges stemming from years of dumping coal waste into North Carolina’s rivers.
Since 2010 Duke has dumped thousands of tons of coal ash waste from power plants into the state’s rivers. On Friday February 20, 2015, federal prosecutors filed nine counts of misdemeanors under the Clean Water Act.
Rather than challenge the charges in court, Duke is getting out their checkbook. As part of a plea bargain agreement they are working on with the federal government Duke will pay more than $100 million. The plea bargain deal would see Duke pay $68 million in fines and $34 million in restitution for a total of more than $102 million.
The public first became aware of the problem on February 3, 2014, when Duke spilled thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan river. The incident was followed by another incident where Duke was caught red handed deliberately dumping coal ash into the state’s waterways. Coal ash contains a number of toxic components including arsenic, mercury and lead.
The problem is recurrent as indicated by a Duke report filed in December which acknowledged 200 seeps at its coal fired plants in North Carolina. Two of the plants sited leaked almost 1 million gallons every day.