This is an old one (March 3). Forgive my lack of chronological consistency while I try to clean up my inbox:
North Carolina regulators said Monday that five power plants owned by Duke Energy have been cited for violating water pollution laws, three days after announcing a similar action against Duke’s plant in Eden, N.C., where 39,000 tons of coal ash fouled the Dan River last month.
The citations, which charge Duke with failing to obtain storm-water permits under federal law, could lead to fines of $25,000 per day for each of the six plants.
The enforcement actions by the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources came after weeks of public outrage about the spill. But according to documents in recent court proceedings, regulators within the agency have tried for several years to force Duke to bring its plants into compliance, only to be frustrated time and again.
“Over the last year and a half, we repeatedly asked for a status and direction on these, and we have been given none,” an environmental engineer in the department wrote to colleagues in September, referring to efforts to require storm-water permits.
Current and former employees of the environmental agency have said that under the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, and the Republican-controlled legislature, regulators were told to play down enforcement of pollution laws in favor of spurring economic activity and jobs.
$25,000 per day for 6 plants? That is $150,000 per day and $4.5 million per month. That is real money.
Of course, it will be paid through rate increases. Isn't there something weird about a public utility fighting back against environmental regulations that are designed to protect the public (like a private business firm would)? It seems like a public utility would recognize a potential environmental problem, figure out how to clean it up and ask for the rate increase ex-ante, because that is part of the true cost of energy.