Duke Energy calls coal ash spill 'an accident,' says it has resp - WNCN: News, Weather

Duke Energy calls coal ash spill 'an accident,' says it has responded

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Duke Energy has launched a vigorous defense of its handling of the coal ash problems and four key directors in a filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company has defended its coal ash practices since a spill at the Dan River was noticed Feb. 2. On April 15, two major shareholders, the California public employees pension fund and the New York city pension funds, wrote the SEC that four Duke directors should be removed.

The pension funds asked other shareholders to vote against the re-election of G. Alex Bernhardt, Sr., James B. Hyler, Jr., James T. Rhodes, and Carlos A. Saladrigas at the company’s annual meeting May 1.

Hyler, of Raleigh, is a former president of First Citizens and a former president of the United States Golf Association. He has been a director for the company since 2008.

Duke Energy, in an SEC filing of its own, defended its efforts and the directors.

“What happened at the Dan River was an accident and it is one for which Duke has taken responsibility,” Duke Energy wrote.

Duke Energy said it has incurred $15 million in costs for the quarter ending March 31.

“We immediately mobilized resources to address the situation – over a period of several days, hundreds of our people worked around the clock,” Duke Energy said.

The company said it plugged the gap, and the Regulatory Policy and Operations Committee, formed in July 2012, did its job by actively managing the company’s response.

“The Committee has the requisite skills and experience to provide effective oversight over the Company’s response and ash management plan,” Duke Energy told the SEC.

The company said the “Board of Directors strongly endorses all of the Company’s director nominees.”

“This matter has our full attention,” Duke wrote. “The entire board, including the committee, is focused on getting this right.”


But others aren’t convinced. Jim Warren, executive director of NC Warn, wrote State Treasurer Janet Cowell Monday to urge the state to “force Duke Energy to change its corporate structure in order to become environmental stewards.”

“Duke Energy is continuing to violate clean water rules and pollute our state’s groundwater and rivers,” Warren wrote. “The coal ash disaster has been mismanaged, showing fundamental flaws in Duke Energy’s fiscal integrity.”

And CalPERS and the New York state pension fund, in their SEC filing, said Duke Energy had forewarning of the potential risk after environmental groups took the company to court three times in to clean up ash ponds.

Inspection reports dating back to 2006 obtained by WNCN Investigates show Duke Energy had long known of potential issues with a pipe under the coal ash pond located near the Dan River. At the time, inspectors recommended using a camera to check inside the pipe for any leaks.

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