Duke Energy’s disclosure Wednesday that it expects to pay $100 million to resolve a federal grand jury investigation stems from a 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River at one of its retired power plants. Here’s how events unfolded:
Feb. 2, 2014: A Duke security guard discovered a broken stormwater pipe at the retired Dan River power plant in Eden, about 130 miles northeast of Charlotte near the Virginia line. Duke struggled for five days to stop what would become the nation’s third-largest ash spill, estimated at up to 39,000 tons of ash.
February 2014: Less than two weeks after the spill, a federal grand jury meeting in Raleigh subpoenaed documents and correspondence from Duke, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the state Utilities Commission. The subpoenas cited a “suspected felony” involving the Dan River spill or ash practices at other Duke power plants.
March 2014: Duke said it would excavate ash from its Dan River and Riverbend power plants, continue moving ash from its Asheville plant and accelerate closing its ponds at the Sutton plant in Wilmington. It said engineering work for all 32 of its North Carolina ash ponds would be finished by the end of the year. Cleanup of the Dan River began in May.
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September 2014: State legislators, following Gov. Pat McCrory’s lead, crafted legislation that became law in September. It set a 15-year timeline for Duke to close its 32 ash ponds and named a new commission to vet hazard rankings and closure plans.
February 2015: A year after the Dan River spill, Duke’s North Carolina ash ponds are apparently still leaking more than 3 million gallons a day near rivers and lakes. Duke in December reported 200 seeps at its 14 coal-fired power plants but said it’s not clear whether all of them come from ash ponds.
Wednesday: Duke Energy expects to pay $100 million to resolve a federal criminal grand jury investigation of its coal ash management, the company said in an earnings report Wednesday. Bruce Henderson