Who will pay for the Duke Energy coal ash spill cleanup?

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RALEIGH, N.C. — On Tuesday, North Carolina officials said groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, according to a report from the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the State Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant.

State regulators expressed concern last week that the second pipe could fail, triggering a new spill. According to test results released Tuesday, the water coming out of the pipe contains poisonous arsenic 14 times the level considered safe for human contact.

“Given what we’ve seen, we’re concerned that this second stormwater pipe on site may also be leaking water contaminated with coal ash pollutants into the Dan River,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources. “As such, we are ordering Duke Energy to eliminate this unauthorized discharge immediately.”

Video shot inside the 36-inch-wide concrete pipe showed wide gaps between seams through which groundwater is gushing in, likely from the toxic dump above, according to the report.

Who will pay?

The question that remains without a clear answer is, “Who will pay for the cleanup?”

According to an Associated Press report, George Everett, Duke’s director of environmental and legislative affairs, apologized to state legislators this week for the spill and promised the company will be accountable. However, Everett implied the costs of the cleanup will likely be passed on to ratepayers, and not shareholders.

“We have paid absolutely no attention to costs, to this point,” Everett said, responding to a lawmaker’s question about who will pay. “We’re focused on stopping the discharge and initiating the remediation of the river. But when costs do come into play, when we’ve had a chance to determine what those costs are, it’s usually our customers who pay our costs of operation.”

However, also on Tuesday, Duke Energy CEO told the Charlotte Observer customers won’t pay the bill for the cleanup.

“We will analyze the financial implications, we’ll work with our insurers and we will be accountable for this,” she said. Duke spokesman Tom Williams later told the paper that “customers will not be accountable for this. Duke Energy will be accountable.”

The N.C. Utilities Commission would have to approve any new rates hikes for Duke Energy.

Read more: Associated Press and Charlotte Observer

14 comments

  • Richard Nance

    Why in the Hell have we got to pay the costs of complete NEGLECT by Duke Power, we didn’t have nothing to do with the spill, I wonder how people can call the NC Utilities, if I can find a number I will call them, probably won’t do any good, but it might do me some good to let off steam of my own!!

    • FaithC

      The citizens of NC hold all the power, they just never use it. Let the elected officials and the governor know that if this is passed on to us, the customer, and not the shareholders, their chances of being reelected are slim and none. Let them know you will do everything in your power to make sure everybody you know votes for someone besides them. Now if one person does it, they could not care less, but if we all did it, they will take notice and I bet they will take action for the people of this state not against them.
      But all people do is sit and complain, start to take action. The pen is truly a mighty weapon.

  • Linn

    Best payback is to fight their requested rate hikes. Duke stockholders should take this hit, not customers. We are forced to do business with Duke – no choice in the matter. Also post your upset on their face book page.

  • ShaneNC

    We need legislators that are willing to legislate. Call and demand protections for ratepayers from Duke’s negligence. Their promises mean nothing..

    • JenJ

      Then don’t elect bought-and-paid-for-by-Duke politicians like your illustrious Governor, Pat McCrory. You know he worked for Duke Energy for over 20 years, right? And that they donated over a million dollars to Pat’s political campaign? They OWN him. Know who you’re voting for!

  • sinnerfrank

    The profiteers should bite the bullet !! but won’t the American way allways side with the corporations !!

  • Mark Stabler

    These coal ash dumps have been in existance for years in many locations across North Carolina. As usual the government took no action to require that they be cleaned up until a major accident occurred. In fact this is not the first coal ash spill in North Carolina and DNER didn’t see any need to force the various power companies to clean up these dumps all located next to or near rivers. It’s hard to understand how they approved large drainage pipes running under these storage areas or even approved the existance of these storage fields next to drinking water sources. Review of records from years back need to be conducted as well as the response in this incident.

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