Duke Energy Reaches $1.1B Settlement in Coal Ash Pollution Dispute

On Monday, Duke Energy reached a settlement of $1.1 billion resulting from the coal ash pollution it caused in North Carolina. The agreement was reached between the North Carolina Attorney General, North Carolina Public Staff, Sierra Club and Duke Energy, and was filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Monday. 

Funds from the settlement will go directly to Duke Energy customers, the company will reduce their costs by approximately $1.1 billion, according to Duke Energy’s press release. Coal ash costs in pending rate requests will be reduced by 60 percent, which will give savings to customers. The settlement also applies to costs in the 2017 and 2019 rate cases. The settlement included details for managing coal ash and cost allocation between 2015 and 2030. 

Duke Energy said the agreement will allow it to earn a return and help it reach its financial goals and “transition to cleaner energy sources.”  The company explained that it is working to permanently close coal ash basins in the state, and the present settlement affirms that this strategy is in the best interests of its customers. 

North Carolina Attorney General John Stein said in a press release, “today’s settlement is a win for every Duke Energy customer. I have long held that North Carolinians should not bear the full cost of cleaning up coal ash. As a result of today’s settlement, we won’t.” 

This settlement reportedly does not alter coal ash clean-up efforts that Duke Energy agreed to in its December 2019 settlement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the Sierra Club, and community groups, where the company agreed, among other things, to excavate over 80 million tons of coal ash in the state. 

“Just as with last year’s historic agreement for Duke to finally clean up all of its toxic coal ash in North Carolina, today’s settlement shows that sustained and determined grassroots and legal pressure can move even a monopoly corporation to do the right thing,” said Dave Rogers, Southeast deputy regional campaign director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. 

The settlement is still subject to approval by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.