North Carolina regulators said Monday that five power plants owned by Duke Energy have been cited for violating water pollution laws, three days after announcing a similar action against Duke’s plant in Eden, N.C., where 39,000 tons of coal ash fouled the Dan River last month.
The citations, which charge Duke with failing to obtain storm-water permits under federal law, could lead to fines of $25,000 per day for each of the six plants.
The enforcement actions by the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources came after weeks of public outrage about the spill. But according to documents in recent court proceedings, regulators within the agency have tried for several years to force Duke to bring its plants into compliance, only to be frustrated time and again.
“Over the last year and a half, we repeatedly asked for a status and direction on these, and we have been given none,” an environmental engineer in the department wrote to colleagues in September, referring to efforts to require storm-water permits.
Current and former employees of the environmental agency have said that under the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, and the Republican-controlled legislature, regulators were told to play down enforcement of pollution laws in favor of spurring economic activity and jobs.
Last year, after environmental groups said they would sue Duke over pollution from its coal ash ponds at power plants,...
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