Duke Energy sued for 2014 coal ash spill environmental harm

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Coal ash from a Duke Energy plant spilled into the Dan River in February 2014.

By EMERY P. DALESIO AP Business Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The federal, North Carolina and Virginia governments want a judge to declare the country’s largest electricity company liable for environmental damage from a leak five years ago that left miles of a river shared by the two states coated in hazardous coal ash.

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Government lawyers on Thursday sought to have Charlotte-based Duke Energy declared responsible for harming fish, birds, amphibians and the bottom of the Dan River. Lawyers say high levels of hazardous substances like arsenic and selenium poured into the river.

Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said the company has already completed most of the conservation and recreation projects proposed by interested parties. He says the legal filing is a step in completing restoration.

The company pleaded guilty to environmental crimes in 2015 and agreed to pay $102 million.