I wrote a month ago about the tiny, insignificant fine imposed on Duke Energy by the state of North Carolina after years of polluting both surface and ground waters. But even that little slap on the wrist is too much for them. They’re accusing the state of “regulatory overreach.”
Duke accused the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of going beyond its authority and not following state procedures. The company, which reported an annual revenue of more than $24 billion last year, also claimed that the fine was bad for business in North Carolina.
“We cannot allow this level of regulatory overreach to go unchallenged,” Paul Newton, Duke’s state president for North Carolina, said in a statement. “The actions by NC DENR send a chilling message to the North Carolina business community.”
When the fine was handed down March 10, the DENC said it calculated the total using daily fine amounts, compounded over the significant length of time Duke allowed pollutants to enter the local watershed. For example, in this case, the state determined that levels of thallium, a toxic heavy metal, exceeded the standard for 1,668 days — more than four and a half years. The daily penalty for thallium pollution in North Carolina is $5,000.
Coal ash is a toxic byproduct of coal-fired power plants. It is often stored near lakes and rivers in coal ash ponds, which can contaminate nearby waterways with thallium as well as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic — elements that have been linked to cancer.
Though the fine was the largest in NC history, it’s only about 1/1000th of a single year’s revenue for the company. And this pollution went on for years and years. But as in everything, profits over public health and safety.