RALEIGH:23 Duke Energy, 18 DENR employees subpoenaed - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Fed grand jury subpoenas 23 Duke Energy, 18 DENR employees

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A criminal probe was triggered after the massive Duke Energy coal ash spill on Feb. 2 that contaminated around 70 miles of the Dan River. (DENR) A criminal probe was triggered after the massive Duke Energy coal ash spill on Feb. 2 that contaminated around 70 miles of the Dan River. (DENR)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Wednesday marked the second day of a scheduled three-day grand jury hearing centered around the state's environmental regulation agency.

The proceeding is part of a federal criminal investigation involving employees from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The probe was triggered after the massive Duke Energy coal ash spill on Feb. 2 that contaminated around 70 miles of the Dan River.

The focus of the investigation is on DENR's relationship with the nation's largest public utility, Duke Energy. Since the spill, environmental and watchdog groups have questioned Duke Energy's influence on DENR's regulatory actions.

Federal prosecutors have issued at least 23 grand jury subpoenas to Duke executives and state employees, including 18 from DENR and N.C. Utilities Commission Chairman Ed Finley.

These are the DENR employees who received a subpoena:

  • Sergei Chernikov  - Engineer, NPDES wastewater permitting
  • Matt Mathews - Division of Water Quality, section chief for surface water protection
  • Corey Basinger - Division of Water Quality, Winston-Salem Surface Water Protection Supervisor
  • Debra Watts - Branch Supervisor, ground water protection unit, Division of Water Quality
  • Sherri Knight - Division of Water Quality Winston-Salem, aquifer protection supervisor
  • Michael Parker - Division of Water Quality, surface water protection Environmental Engineer II, Mooresville regional office
  • Andrew Pitner - Division of Water Quality, aquifer protection supervisor, Mooresville regional office
  • Chuck Cranford - Division of Water Quality, assistant regional office supervisor Asheville
  • Landon Davidson - Water Quality Supervisor, Asheville
  • Jim Gregson - Division of Water Quality, surface water protection supervisor, Wilmington
  • Morella Sanchez King - Division of Water Quality, surface water/aquifer protection Wilimgton
  • Belinda Henson - Water Quality Reg Ops Section Fayetteville
  • Stephen Art Barnhard - Regional Supervisor, aquifer protection, Fayetteville // Section Chief, Waste Management Underground Storage Tanks Section
  • Danny Smith - Regional supervisor, surface water, Raleigh
  • Charles "Chuck" Wakild - retired, former director of the Division of Water Quality
  • Coleen Sullins - Former Deputy Director Division of Water Quality
  • David May - Division of Water Quality, Water Resources/Environmental Regional Supervisor, Washington
  • Rick Bolich - Division of Water Resources RRO APS Supervisor, Water Quality/ Aquifer protection, Raleigh

Thomas Walker, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, declined to comment, citing the secrecy of grand jury investigations that are protected by federal law.

WNCN Investigates obtained copies of the subpoenas through a public records request. The documents show investigators are interested in records from Duke, the DENR and the state Utilities Commission.

The records include any documents, emails and reports related to the Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River, and the state's oversight of the company's nearly three dozen other coal ash dumps spread out at 14 power plants.

The subpoenas also demand any documents involving any money, gifts or items of value the employees received from anyone at Duke Energy.

Read the subpoenas here:

Jamie Kritzer, a spokesman for DENR, declined to comment beyond saying the agency is cooperating with the federal investigation.

Duke also declined to comment beyond saying it is cooperating with the federal investigation.

Despite that grand jury investigation, Gov. Pat McCrory is keeping faith in DENR. On Wednesday, he deferred comment to the environmental agency on what actions the state should take next against Duke.

"I'm going to let DENR answer all those questions," McCrory said. "I'll just say this: We've stated two or three weeks ago it's time for Duke to come out of the shadows and give much more detail on their plans."

Last week, DENR called Duke Energy's coal ash cleanup plan "inadequate."

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Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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