Duke, Virginia agree to $2.5 million coal ash settlement
By STEVE SZKOTAK
RICHMOND (AP) - Duke Energy has agreed to a $2.5 million settlement with Virginia over a massive coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge, state environmental officials announced Friday.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said the settlement would include $2.25 million in environmental projects that Duke would perform in communities affected by the spill in February 2014. The remaining $250,000 would be placed in a fund for the department to respond to environmental emergencies.
The spill originated in North Carolina but affected areas in Virginia, too, leaving more than 2,500 tons of the toxic ash backed up in a dam in Danville.
The settlement is still subject to approval by the State Water Control Board. The consent order does not preclude affected Virginia localities from seeking their own settlements with Duke.
"This is strictly between the state of Virginia and Duke," DEQ spokesman Bill Hayden said.
Danville officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
In February, Duke and federal prosecutors said the energy giant had agreed to plead guilty to violations of the Clean Water Act and pay $102 million in fines, restitution and community service. The company said the costs of the settlement will be borne by its shareholders, not passed on to its electricity customers.
Duke adamantly denied any wrongdoing regarding its coal ash dumps for years. But in December, the company conceded in regulatory filings that it had identified about 200 leaks and seeps at its 32 coal ash dumps statewide that together ooze out more than 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater each day.
A new state law passed in August requires Duke to either clean up or permanently cap all of its ash dumps in North Carolina by 2029.
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