Monday, March 10, 2014

Duke Energy expects its customers to pay for moving coal-ash ponds away from drinking-water supplies

Duke Energy said it will honor a request to move its ash ponds away from drinking-water supplies but at the expense of its 3.2 million customers, Bruce Henderson reports for the Charlotte Observer. Duke has said the company and its stockholders will pay the costs of cleaning up the Dan River from a Feb. 2 coal ash spill. But in response to a request from North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, to move its ponds away from drinking water, "Duke is making it just as clear that closing its ponds will be an expense—likely to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars—that customers should pay."

The North Carolina Utilities Commission "lets utilities recover 'prudent' capital costs such as for new power plants, through customer rates. Duke has also been allowed to recover the costs of state-imposed environmental measures. Those include the 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act, which ordered strict emission limits on coal-fired power plants. Duke and the former Progress Energy [with which it merged] spent $2.8 billion to comply with the law," Henderson writes. "Now the state’s Environmental Review Commission is hashing out legislation on ash ponds. If lawmakers order Duke to close or move ponds, the company would have good reason to expect it would recover those costs. Duke’s chances would dim, however, if its ponds are shown to violate state standards. State environmental regulators have already charged Duke with violations at Dan River and five other power plants. A federal grand jury is also investigating." (Read more) (Observer video: Duke CEO Lynn Good speaking on Friday)

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