Duke Energy and NC regulators face federal investigation

by Jason Schwartz

February 14, 2014

Matt Wasson, director of programs at Appalachian Voices, collects water samples to test for heavy metals from the Dan River near Eden. Duke Energy said that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from a coal ash retention pond into the Dan River at the Dan River Steam Station which was closed in 2012.

© Jason Miczek / Greenpeace

It seems federal investigators have finally heard complaints that something fishy was up between environmental regulators and Big Coal in North Carolina. Since Duke Energys February 2nd coal ash spill, Greenpeace, Appalachian Voices, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Associated Press, Waterkeeper Alliance, and a coalition of groups and individuals have been directing attention to the fact thatDuke, the nations largest energy utility, has been buying the loyalty of the states Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Long before Duke was poisoning the gorgeous Dan River (and if you dont know the river, please read this moving account from Jack Betts), it was using its money and political influence to poison North Carolinas democracy. Now it seems the wheels are turning on a Federal investigation of the far-too-cozy relationship between North Carolina regulators and Duke Energy.

This from the AP:

Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh issued grand jury subpoenas demanding records from Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The subpoenas seek emails, memos and reports from 2010 through the Feb. 2 spill.

The Associated Press obtained a copy on Thursday of the subpoena issued to the state. A Duke spokesman confirmed the company had also received one.

Prosecutors ordered the state environmental agency’s chief lawyer to appear next month before a grand jury.

While DENR is being investigated, other government agencies are stepping in to do its job of protecting people from the spills dangers. In a sign of little faith in DENR, which had been slow and initially inaccurate about the safety of drinking water in the Dan River, North Carolinas Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that

People should avoid contact with water and sediment downstream from the spill, avoid eating fish or shellfish from the river, and that any skin that comes into contact with water or sediment from the Dan River should be washed immediately.

Were so relieved to hear that there are government agencies in North Carolina who put the interests of the people who live there over their corporate benefactors.

As for Duke Energy and the crooked regulators Governor McCrory installed on its behalf? We cant wait to see them try to explain themselves to a grand jury.

(Photo:Matt Wasson, director of programs at Appalachian Voices, collects water samples to test for heavy metals from the Dan River)
Jason Schwartz

By Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based in New York City.

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