Duke Energy Carolinas LLC and environmental officials in North Carolina and Virginia have reached an agreement calling for the cleanup of a February disaster in which 82,000 tons of coal ash were dumped across 70 miles of the Dan River. The electricity company said in a securities filing that it would pay reasonable past and future costs incurred by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality over claims regarding natural resource damages.
The spill occurred in early February when a broken 48-inch stormwater pipe at a shuttered Duke coal-fired power plant released enough coal ash from its Dan River Steam Station to fill up to 32 Olympic-size swimming pools. Duke’s 8-K form said it couldn’t estimate the costs to comply with the funding and participation agreement but that the total costs to remediate the Dan River Steam Station ash basin release would not be material.
John Skvarla, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said in a statement that the settlement was “another important step in our efforts to hold Duke Energy accountable for their ash spill and to return the Dan River, as closely as possible, to the condition it was in before the ash spill.” The deal announcement comes less than three weeks after Duke and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a separate deal in which the federal agency will oversee the cleanup of the spill along with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Coal ash at the site contains arsenic, copper, lead, mercury and other substances that the Superfund law deems hazardous, according to the EPA. Duke said Monday that it couldn’t estimate costs related to the Dan River Steam Station release, including regulatory orders, natural resources damages and other costs. Officials said Monday that they are evaluating the impact of the Dan River coal ash spill on natural resources and how to restore them through a Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Process that will not result in costs to taxpayers.
The officials added that they will develop a proposed restoration plan that will be made available to the public for their review and comment. Their statement said:
Our ultimate goal is to restore the Dan River’s natural resources and the public’s enjoyment of them. To that end, public participation will be an essential component moving forward with natural resource damage assessment and restoration.
Perhaps to be expected, not all North Carolina residents are satisfied with the settlement. Citizens living near the coal ash sites are concerned about health effects. At press time, it was uncertain how this would affect the settlement. Those are concerns that should be addressed.
Source: Claims Journal
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