Duke Must Pay More for Coal Ash Cleanup

Under a settlement announced by state Attorney General Josh Stein, Duke Energy will have to pay more of the costs of cleaning up its coal ash pollution. The proposed deal between Duke, the Attorney General’s office, the Public Staff, and the state Sierra Club would save electric consumers an estimated $1.1 billion over the next ten years by requiring Duke and its shareholders to absorb about three-quarters of the costs of cleaning up unlined coal ash ponds. The state Utilities Commission (NCUC) must sign off on the deal before it can go into effect.

“Coal ash is a 20th-century problem that we must put in our rearview mirror,” Stein said. “That means cleaning it up today and making sure these costs are not unfairly put on the backs of customers alone.”

The settlement was reached as a result of Stein’s challenge to a 2017 NCUC decision which would have allowed Duke to charge ratepayers for all those cleanup costs. Duke would have paid only a one-time penalty of $100 million. The state Supreme Court partially reversed that order last year, and returned the case to NCUC for reconsideration.

Environmental advocates have consistently argued that Duke stockholders should bear the lion’s share of the costs for cleaning up coal ash pollution. They make the case that Duke irresponsibly continued to rely on an outdated storage technology after its failures were known, with predictable high costs and wide-ranging environmental damage. 

“Today’s settlement is a win for every Duke Energy customer,” said Stein. “I have long held that North Carolinians should not bear the full cost of cleaning up coal ash. As a result of today’s settlement, we won’t — to the tune of more than $1 billion. I’m proud that this result will save customers’ money and grateful for the partnership with the Public Staff and the Sierra Club.”

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