Duke settlement on coal ash may cost customers billions

Duke Energy agrees to settlement on coal ash basins

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A major settlement Monday involved Duke Energy and the coal ash basins.

Duke Energy agreed to pay over $1 billion to recycle the ash and close the plants producing them, but the customers may get stuck with the rest of the bill. That’s another $3 billion.

“Doesn’t seem fair,” said Belmont resident Amanda Zimmer.

Parts of Gaston County were the hardest hit when it came to the coal ash problem. Now customers the hook for $3 billion aren’t taking it very well.

“They’re the ones, if you’re the one that caused it, you might as well pay the full thing of it,” said Marco Martinez.

“Ah – that sounds crazy to me. I cannot believe, it sounds unreal you know?” echoed Anna Miszkiewicz.

Cleanup is underway – but it’s coming with a cost. About $4 billion. But what exactly is coal ash?

Meredith Archie with Duke Energy explains.

“Duke Energy has been producing energy from coal-fired units for decades. And so a byproduct of this is coal ash.”

And in the state, there’s a lot of it. Brandon Jones with the Catawba Riverkeeper shares his views.

“I mean just to give you a perspective, if you were to take all that ash and just put it in the footprint of (Bank of America) Stadium, it would be almost as high as the planes fly about 25,000 feet.”

Coal ash can be reprocessed or loaded into large basins which are lined and entombed surrounded by tarps.

But many people believe the material leached into the ground and got into many of the wells causing irreparable harm. Residents in surrounding areas had to use bottled water for everything from cooking to showering.

The electric utility reached a compromise agreement with the Sierra Club and Attorney General Josh Stein.

“$1.1 billion dollars is going to be taken off of your backs and is going to be assumed by Duke Energy in the cost of cleaning up coal ash,” explained Stein.

But what’s left on the table is another $3 billion, which customers will have to shoulder.

“The North Carolina utilities Commission as well as the North Carolina Supreme Court has affirmed these are prudent costs and is part of producing electricity for our customers,” Archie explained Monday night.

Passing the $3 billion on to customers, isn’t a done deal just yet. It still has to pass the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

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