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Duke Pushes Back Against State Environment Officials

Appalachian Voices

Duke Energy is denying accusations by regulators that it allows contaminated storm water to run unauthorized from its coal plants. It’s the first major pushback from Duke against state regulators after the Dan River spill—but not the last, the company says.

The state cited Duke for allowing storm water from six coal plants to run into rivers and lakes without permits. That was on March 3, exactly one month after a broken storm water pipe funneled at least 30,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. State environmental officials said they were cracking down and requiring permits, to increase oversight. But Duke spokesman Tom Williams says his company is been trying to get permits at four of the six plants for years.

“We actually had submitted storm water permit applications with the state, had extensive discussions with the state around those permits, and are awaiting action by the state,” says Williams.

Williams says permits at the other two plants already address storm water. Regulators have taken a harder line against Duke, since the spill and a federal investigation into their relationship with the utility. Last week, the state killed a settlement it had proposed over how the company stores coal ash.

The company will also dispute that it illegally dumped more than 61 million gallons of water from coal ash ponds at its Cape Fear plant into a tributary of the river, according to Williams. He says the company will show proof that regulators authorized it.