Five More Duke Energy Power Plants Cited For Storing Coal Waste Improperly

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday cited five more Duke Energy power plants for not having storm water permits.

These citations follow two others issued Friday against the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, where, on February 2, 39,000 tons of coal ash were funneled through a broken storm water pipe under a coal ash pond and into the Dan River.

Duke Energy faces potential fines of $25,000 per day, per violation. Regulators say they are still in the process of assessing how coal ash is stored at all 14 of Duke’s sites in North Carolina. Coal ash is a toxic sludge left over from the burning of coal in old power plants.

“It is shocking that Duke Energy was openly violating the most fundamental requirements of clean water laws, and discharging industrial storm water directly into the Dan River illegally,” Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center told the Los Angeles Times.

Duke has 30 days from the issuance of the violation notices to make its case to the DENR before fines are set.

The five new citations were issued against Belews Creek Steam Station in Rockingham County, Cliffside Steam Station in Rutherford County, Lee Steam Electric Plant in Wayne County, Roxboro Steam Electric Power Plant in Person County, and Sutton Steam Electric Plant in New Hanover County.


Storm water permits are required for rainwater draining from the plants into public waterways. Last week, the Associated Press filed a public records request for a copy of Duke’s storm water permit for the Dan River plant and was told that the permit did not exist.

Also last week, internal emails and other records uncovered through a public records request by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) show that regulators at the DENR knew about the six Duke plants without permits back in 2009.

Both the DENR and Duke Energy received subpoenas from federal prosecutors investigating the relationship between the utility giant and the agency charged with regulating it.

Groups like the Southern Environmental Law Center have said for years that DENR has ignored leaks at 32 Duke Energy coal ash storage basins.

When SELC attempted to sue Duke Energy over the leaks, the suit was blocked by a DENR suit which resulted in what environmental groups decried as a sweetheart deal where the utility was given a slap on the wrist fine and was only required to study the sites, not actually take action to stop the problem.


North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory worked for Duke Energy for 28 years and has received substantial campaign contributions from the company over the years. The DENR secretary he appointed, John Skvarla, has become notorious for referring to the agency as a “partner” of the companies it regulates and calling those companies, “customers.”

Speaking publicly for the first time about his long career at Duke Energy to the News and Record, McCrory stressed that he has no problem putting distance between himself and the company that hired him right out of college.

“I can separate. I can clearly separate,” McCrory told the News and Record. “I’m the first governor to support a lawsuit against Duke Energy.”

“I make the assumption my past friends respect that responsibility,” he added.

In the interview McCrory referred to the “lack of a plan” and the “lack of oversight of understanding what was beneath the coal ash” at the Dan River site as “disappointing.”