Duke: Settling criminal probe into coal ash spill could cost $100M
Posted February 18, 2015
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy says it expects to pay $100 million to settle an ongoing federal criminal investigation that began after a massive coal ash spill in the Dan River a year ago.
The details were contained in an earnings report filed Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“We believe we are close to an agreement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the U.S. government’s ongoing grand jury investigation into the February 2014 Dan River coal ash spill and ash basin operations at other North Carolina coal plants,” Chief Executive Lynn Good said in a news release to announce its 2014 earnings.
The release said the proposed agreement "could be reached and filed in the next several days for consideration by the court."
Duke has set aside $100 million "related to the company’s assessment of probable financial exposure related to any agreement," the release said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh began the investigation after a spill at Duke's shuttered Eden plant coated more than 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge.
U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker declined to comment Wednesday on Duke's statement. But the extent of records sought by subpoenas in the case suggests that prosecutors are not only looking at the spill but also at the relationship between Duke and state regulators going back for many years.
Duke reported 2014 earnings per share of $2.66, down from $3.76 per share in 2013. When one-time charges, including the $100 million in reserve for a coal ash settlement, are taken into account, the company reported annual earnings of $4.55 per share, up from $4.36 per share in 2013.