Duke Energy appeals $25M fine, seeks dismissal

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The new natural-gas facility at Duke's Sutton Plant. Photo courtesy Duke Energy.
The new natural-gas facility at Duke’s Sutton Plant. Photo courtesy Duke Energy.

Duke Energy officials on Thursday appealed “an unprecedented fine” issued by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), arguing that actions already taken by the company make the penalty “unnecessary and excessive,” according to the company.

On March 10, the environmental regulator fined the company $25.1 million for groundwater violations at the L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant in Wilmington. The company is asking that the fine be dismissed.

Related story: State fines Duke Energy $25M for groundwater contamination near Wilmington

“The Sutton plant generated electricity for millions of customers and operated in compliance with North Carolina law and environmental regulations,” said Paul Newton, Duke Energy state president. “We closely monitored groundwater, shared the data with the state for decades, and voluntarily acted to ensure residents near the Sutton plant continue to have a high-quality water supply.”

The appeal, filed with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, describes a number of instances where the company alleges DENR’s actions violated state law, the regulator’s own rules and procedures, public policy and the longstanding interpretation of the regulations.

The appeal claims that DENR fined Duke for 1,822 days of alleged groundwater violations “despite having sample results for just 27 days.” Duke also claims that DENR created “an entirely new methodology to calculate the fine that dramatically increased the size of the penalty, making it $24 million higher than similar fines issued by NC DENR.”

The appeal further claims that DENR failed to consider naturally occurring substances and other sources of groundwater contamination in the area.

“There are important legal issues here that must be resolved for the sake of everyone in North Carolina,” said Newton. “At the same time, we remain focused on closing ash basins as quickly as the state process will allow, which ultimately addresses groundwater concerns.”

More information on Duke Energy’s coal ash management can be found here.