Duke Energy to contest North Carolina coal ash excavation order

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Coal Ash stored at Duke Energy's Sutton Plant in New Hanover County in 2015. (Photo: WWAY)

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — The country’s largest electric company says it’s challenging an order by North Carolina’s environmental agency to excavate coal ash from all of its power plant sites in the state.

Duke Energy Corp. said Thursday it will file an administrative appeal by May 1. The order could cut the risk of toxic chemicals leaking into water supplies but add billions of dollars to electricity bills.

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The company has said it wants to cover the storage pits at six power plants with a waterproof cap, calling it a cheaper option that would prevent rain from passing through and carrying chemicals through the unlined bottoms.

The Charlotte-based company says complete excavation would cost about $10 billion, nearly double current estimates. Consumer advocates are demanding the company’s shareholders pay that bill instead of customers.