DENR hires law firm to help respond to subpoenas

Posted by Patrick Gannon on March 20, 2014 

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is bringing in outside legal help to assist the agency in responding to federal grand jury subpoenas in the probe involving Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds. The agency hired Alston & Bird of Charlotte specifically to help it respond to subpoenas requesting DENR documents related to coal ash ponds in North Carolina.

“They’ve been hired to ensure that we fully cooperate with the investigation,” DENR spokesman Drew Elliot said Thursday.

“A lot of that is document retrieval and gathering, and there may be other areas as well.”

According to a letter from Alston & Bird to DENR, the law firm will charge no more than $350 an hour, which is “substantially reduced” from the rates it would normally charge for such work. If the hourly rate of a lawyer working on the DENR case is less than $350 an hour, DENR will be charged the lower rate. Also, travel time will be billed at $150 an hour, rather than $350, according to the document.

“Alston & Bird recognizes that DENR, as a state agency, has limited funds, and that public money is being used to pay our fees. We also view this representation as, in part, an opportunity to engage in public service,” wrote Mark Calloway, a partner at Alston & Bird, in the letter to DENR.

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