Thursday, March 10, 2016

Duke appeals $6.8M fine for dumping coal ash in Dan River; says fine created to be 'newsworthy'

Duke Energy has appealed a $6.8 million fine from the state of North Carolina for dumping 82,000 tons of coal ash in the Dan River in 2014, "calling the action 'entirely arbitrary and capricious' and requesting 'dismissal of the ... civil penalty in its entirety,'" John Downey reports for the Charlotte Business Journal. Duke said in a statement: “Clearly, our company is accountable for the Dan River incident, and we recognize the state’s right to issue an appropriate penalty in a situation like this. This appeal requests that Duke Energy be treated in a manner that is fair and consistent with the law and other North Carolina companies.”

Duke, which claims the fine was purposely made too high to be "a newsworthy amount" and counteract bad publicity concerning Gov. Pat McCrory's close ties with Duke—where he worked for 28 years—filed the appeal Wednesday with the state Administrative Hearings Office, Downey writes. "The appeal compares the Dan River fine to a $25.1 million penalty the DEQ imposed on Duke last year for clean water violations at its Sutton coal plant. DEQ later had to admit it could not impose that fine. The state negotiated a $7 million settlement with Duke in that case ... Duke accused DEQ of improperly using admissions Duke made of federal violations in a misdemeanor case last year and then imposed daily fines for the violations dating back to Jan. 1, 2012."

Frank Holleman, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, "disagrees contention about the harm caused by the spill and criticized Duke’s decision to appeal the fine," Downey writes. He told Downey, “Since Duke committed crimes that led to the Dan River spill and Duke caused such harm to the state and its citizens, you would think Duke would have the humility to pay a relatively modest fine and ask forgiveness from the people of the state." (Read more)

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