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Duke Energy sues insurers over coal ash cleanup costs

Posted March 29

Coal ash

— The largest U.S. electric company says it is suing insurance companies to force them to cover some of its multibillion-dollar costs to clean up the toxic residues left in the Carolinas after decades of burning coal to generate power.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp. said Wednesday it filed a lawsuit in state court against 30 insurers going back three decades. The utility says the insurers have refused to pay claims that could total hundreds of millions of dollars.

Duke said the companies were paid to provide general liability coverage to its operating subsidiaries in North Carolina and South Carolina and their predecessor companies.

"We take very seriously our commitment to customers to manage coal ash in ways that continue to protect people and the environment. We're also working hard to manage cost," company officials said in a statement. "These insurance policies were purchased to help protect our customers from new costs imposed in a situation like this, so the prudent and appropriate thing to do is request payment on their behalf."

Duke officials previously said they would look to pass along the cost of coal ash cleanup to customers through rate increases.

North Carolina law requires the company to close all of its ash ponds statewide, but environmental groups and state regulators have disagreed on how many of the sites need to be excavated, with the ash moved to lined landfills, and how many can simply be drained, covered and left in place.

The utility delivers electricity to about 7.4 million customers in the Carolinas, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Florida.

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