Duke Says Environmental Group's Lawyers Leaked Testimony, Seeks Court Hearing
Duke Energy wants answers on how testimony by a state toxicologist was leaked to the Associated Press three weeks ago. Duke believes an environmental group is responsible, and wants a court hearing on the matter.
One of the key disagreements in lawsuits over coal ash cleanups in the state is whether private wells near Duke’s coal plants are safe. In recent weeks, court depositions by several state scientists became public, describing a fierce debate among state scientists and top aides to Governor Pat McCrory.
Duke had tried to keep one of those depositions private - testimony by state toxicologist Dr. Kenneth Rudo. He helped draft letters last year that told hundreds of homeowners not to use their wells because tests show they contain heavy metals.
In the deposition, Rudo says he objected to a second letter this spring that told well owners their water was safe. And he questioned the actions of the state health director, who was appointed by Governor McCrory.
Three weeks ago, an Associated Press reporter got hold of Rudo’s full deposition from an undisclosed source and published a story.
Duke says the deposition was leaked by lawyers for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which denies the accusation.
Now Duke is asking a federal judge to hold a hearing to find out how the document became public.
Spokeswoman Paige Sheehan says it should’ve been up to the court to make Rudo’s testimony public.
“Our objective is not to ask reporters who their sources are,” Sheehan said. “The objective here is to find out who really took the authority away from the court to decide on this issue.”
Duke has argued that the testimony is inaccurate and incomplete. Sheehan says the reporter was correct to write about the leaked deposition, but
“Our concern is that somebody made sure that Associated Press and other members of the media only got half the story. That's like asking a jury to weigh in on only half the evidence,” she said.
It’s not clear yet if the judge will call a hearing, and whether any reporters will be asked to testify.