Caption: L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant
Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) appealed a $25.1 million penalty imposed by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), on April 9. In March, NCDENR fined the utility for groundwater violations at the L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. Duke Energy is asking the fine to be dismissed, arguing that the penalty is unnecessary and excessive.
"The Sutton plant generated electricity for millions of customers and operated in compliance with North Carolina law and environmental regulations," said Paul Newton, state president - North Carolina. "We closely monitored groundwater, shared the data with the state for decades, and voluntarily acted to ensure residents near the Sutton plant continue to have a high-quality water supply.”
The appeal, filed with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings, argues that NCDENR overstepped its bounds when it fined the utility for 1,822 days of alleged groundwater violations despite having sample results for only 27 days. Additionally, the appeal says NCDENR created a new method to calculate the fine, making it $24 million higher than similar fines issued by environmental regulators.
Duke Energy plans to close 32 ash basins across North Carolina, beginning with Asheville, Dan River, Riverbend, and Sutton. Duke Energy is currently waiting for the state to issue new wastewater permits to begin closing the ash basins. The permits are expected to be issued in the coming months.