Duke Energy pleads guilty to environmental crimes

May 22, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corporation, the largest electric power holding company in the United States, pled guilty to nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act in several of its facilities.

Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Duke Energy earlier this year, accusing the company of violating the Clean Water Act by dumping millions of gallons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina and failing to maintain equipment around at least two plants.

Duke Energy had already negotiated a plea bargain with the federal government when the charges were revealed. The recent court proceedings finalized the deal. The company will pay a total of $102 million in fines and restitution as part of the guilty plea.

"In the court hearing, prosecutors gave multiple examples where Duke employees knew or were warned that they were discharging pollution into the state's waterways and they were slow to do anything or took no action at all," the Associated Press reported.

According to the Justice Department the plea agreement will work to prevent this type of environmental disaster from occurring again in North Carolina. Duke Energy will be required to follow an independently verifiable program to ensure that they comply with state and federal laws.

"The massive coal ash spill into North Carolina's Dan River last year was a crime and it was the result of repeated failures by Duke Energy's subsidiaries to exercise controls over coal ash facilities," said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Environmental consultants can assist companies like Duke Energy in complying with all laws and regulations.