NC officials yank settlement offer from toxic polluter despite its ties to governor
Officials with North Carolina’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR) have withdrawn a heavily-criticized settlement offer for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s former employer in the wake of more allegations of environmental wrongdoing, WRAL-TV reported on Friday.
The department said in court that it had revoked its proposed $99,000 fine against Duke Energy, a departure from its policy up to this point of assuming control of lawsuits filed against the company by environmental activists from the region. McCrory worked for Duke for 28 years before taking office.
“We intend for our lawsuits against Duke Energy to move forward,” DENR Secretary John Skvarla was quoted as saying. “We will continue to hold the utility accountable for the clean-up of its coal ash impoundments through the lawsuits, the reopening of the permits and our ongoing investigation.”
The issue reached national prominence last month when MSNBC host Rachel Maddow reported on a series of toxic coal ash spills from Duke facilities. The third spill produced 82,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated water, causing DENR officials to delay another settlement. She later reported that a federal grand jury was investigating possible malfeasance on the part of Duke.
Maddow also reported on Thursday that an environmental group snapped photographs showing Duke personnel pumping toxic material into a canal that feeds into the Cape Fear River. The company initially described the process as “routine maintenance,” only to be cited by the state on Thursday for actually “dewatering” 61 million gallons of the material over a 100-day period. Duke was also threatened with a $25,000 fine for each day it is found to be engaging in similar actions in the future.
On Thursday, a Superior Court judge refused to stay a ruling forcing Duke to stop the leaking of toxic materials from its coal ash plants.
The Associated Press reported on Friday that DENR officials will collaborate with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate violations of the Clean Air Act at the company’s 14 plants.
“The state’s goal is to clean up both the Dan River and to protect public health and the environment at the other Duke Energy facilities around the state,” McCrory said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce that the EPA will join us as we address these important issues.”
[Image via CBS News]