Coal ash cleanup is happening and Duke Energy will pay its fair share. 

Duke Energy, the N.C. attorney general’s office, the N.C. Utilities Commission’s Public Staff, and the Sierra Club have come to an agreement that resolves outstanding issues around managing and closing 31 coal ash basins located across the state. Last year, the company agreed to clean up and relocate eighty million tons of coal ash to safer lined landfills as part of a settlement agreement with the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and several environmental groups.

According to a press release from Attorney General Josh Stein’s office, Duke Energy customers in North Carolina will save more than $1 billion on their utility bills over the next 10 years; coal ash costs included in pending rate requests will be reduced by 60 percent, providing immediate customer savings, thought ratepayers will ultimately still be on the hook for about $3 billion in cleanup costs. 

In 2017, the state’s Utilities Commission granted Duke Energy a request that ratepayers bear all the cost of cleaning up coal ash not covered by a one-time $100 million environmental penalty that the Commission assessed on the energy company. Stein, the Sierra Club, and the Public Staff–the consumer advocacy body that works with the Utilities Commission to set energy rates–appealed the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which ruled in December that Duke Energy would need to pay more to clean up its coal ash in the state. 

The settlement announced this morning covers cleanup costs incurred from 2015 through 2030. 

“Today’s settlement is a win for every Duke Energy customer,” said Stein in a press release. “I have long held that North Carolinians should not bear the full cost of cleaning up coal ash. As a result of today’s settlement, we won’t.”

“This agreement addresses a shared interest in putting the coal ash debate to rest as we work toward building the cleaner energy future North Carolinians want and deserve,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president in a statement on the company’s website. “We were able to reach a balanced compromise that will deliver immediate and long-term savings to customers and provide greater certainty to the company over the next decade.”

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