Business

Duke shareholders call for probe of coal ash problems

Posted March 27

A coal ash pond at the former Lee Steam Station near Goldsboro sits along the Neuse River.

— Major shareholders of Duke Energy Corp. have called on the company's board of directors to launch an independent investigation into last month's coal ash spill in the Dan River from a retired Duke plant near Eden.

“Duke’s recent environmental problems suggest serious lapses in oversight, as well as failures in risk management by the board of directors, and are a substantial concern for investors,” Bill Dempsey, senior vice president of the Nathan Cummings Foundation, which is spearheading the investor move, said in a statement.

Other Duke investors joining in the effort include pension funds in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon and Pennsylvania, the Service Employees International Union and investment funds Calvert Investments and Trillium Asset Management.

The group sent a letter Thursday to the Regulatory Policy and Operations Committee of Duke's board to review the circumstances around the Feb. 2 spill, which fouled 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge, and whether utility's policies and procedures can prevent future spills.

State environmental regulators have since cited Duke for lacking the proper permits at several of its coal-fired power plants in North Carolina and for illegally dumping wastewater from a coal ash pond in Chatham County into a tributary of the Cape Fear River.

Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources John Skvarla recently criticized Duke for not providing specifics on how it plans to handle the ash in more than 30 ash ponds across the state, and he has requested that a judge scotch a proposed settlement between DENR and Duke on ash ponds at two sites.

A federal grand jury also is investigating any financial ties between Duke and regulators.

"These events, and Duke’s response to them, have shaken investors' confidence in Duke and its Board," the shareholder letter states. "In spite of the continuing flurry of news accounts, we are unaware of any action taken by the Board to address these serious issues."

The investors want a four-part investigation and a status report at the company's May 1 annual meeting. In addition to the spill and conditions at Duke's other coal ash ponds, they want investigators to look at the allegations under review by the grand jury and legislative lobbying and political activities regarding regulatory and enforcement efforts at the company’s coal ash facilities. They also want a list of recommendations to ensure the company is in compliance with current regulations and best practices regarding its handling of coal ash.

"As the owners of public corporations, shareholders expect companies to do business the right way, which will bolster public confidence, sustain the environment and enhance long-term share value," Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler said in a statement.

14 Comments

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  • Jump1 Mar 28, 11:49 a.m.

    The stockholder want the probe as a way to protect their company, not the community, they do not want to lose money in pay out and fines, like they would pay anyway.

  • scubagirl2 Mar 28, 10:58 a.m.

    So wondering WHY the censors didn't allow my post that said I voted against the entire BOD on my proxy because of all these shenanigans these guys (and gals) have been doing. Maybe with a BOD change there will be change within the company----good change, not the change we've seen since the merger------that never should have happened.

  • downtowner Mar 28, 10:16 a.m.

    We won't see positive change in Duke's behavior until we hit em where it hurts, the stock price. Only then will they clean up their act and it won't be out of good will either. That's capitalism for ya.

  • Reformed Liberal Mar 28, 10:09 a.m.

    Ahh.. Only took close to 2 months for the shareholders to weigh in.

  • nclaw2u Mar 27, 6:23 p.m.

    The CEO of Duke energy needs to go...she has not handle this properly at all. It seems all she is worried about is covering up things and her bonus..since she wants to pass the cost of the clean up to the customers of the company.

  • itlsss Mar 27, 3:49 p.m.

    Got my proxy matl. in the mail today. Voted against EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Shame that Rogers isn't still on board to take the heat but his minions surely are!

  • leaannbo Mar 27, 3:10 p.m.

    The share holders won't lose anything no matter how bad this gets. The cost will just roll on to the consumers

  • Geez Louise Mar 27, 3:00 p.m.

    "A federal grand jury also is investigating any financial ties between Duke and regulators."
    --And while they're at it, they need to look at the merger between Duke and Progress. I'm sure some regulators got a big fat bonus from Duke for approving the merger.

  • lec02572 Mar 27, 2:50 p.m.

    Bet the former CEO or Progress Energy isn't missing this one bit. Look for the pension funds to pull out quickly.

  • Vietnam Vet Mar 27, 2:42 p.m.

    My question is simply this: When you establish a coal ash pond, especially next to the river, just where do you expect this pollution to go??? Seep into the ground perhaps? Then what? River?...water table??

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