Duke Energy Corp. reached a settlement with state regulators that will cut $1.5 billion from its cost to clean up coal ash ponds in North Carolina.
The deal announced Thursday ends a legal dispute with the state, which in April ordered the utility to excavate nine ponds. Under the settlement, the company will fully excavate seven ponds and leave potions of the other two undisturbed.
Duke estimated in April that excavating all nine ponds would cost as much as $10.5 billion, saying at the time that the state’s order “would impose a financial burden on our customers and the economy of the Carolinas.”
Most coal ash left over from burning the fuel is stored at power plants across the U.S., either in dry landfills or ponds. The sites — which contain arsenic, boron, lead and other toxins — are considered hazardous by environmentalists who say they pollute ground water.
Under the settlement, Duke’s cleanup is expected to take 15 to 20 years and cost $8 billion to $9 billion, including $2.4 billion already spent. The company plans to recoup the costs from customers.
Duke will fully excavate ponds at the Belews Creek Steam Station, Mayo Plant, Roxboro Plant, Allen Steam Station and Rogers Energy Complex, moving the ash to lined landfills. At the Marshall Steam Station and Roxboro Plant, the company will excavate uncapped ash but leave other areas that have already been covered undisturbed.
Duke shares were up 0.2% at 9:32 a.m. in New York.
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