Originally on WFAE

April 29, 2019

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a decision made by regulators last year to let Duke Energy charge ratepayers for coal ash cleanups.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission allowed Duke Energy's two North Carolina operating divisions to recover hundreds of millions of dollars spent so far to clean up coal ash at plants around the state — minus $100 million in penalties.

In the appeal filed Friday, Stein said it's not fair to charge customers the full cost.

"I do not believe that it is reasonable for Duke to put the cost [of] cleaning up coal ash onto the backs of the ratepayers, which is you and me, when Duke knew that for decades now that coal ash is a pollutant and it can cause issues with groundwater," Stein told WFAE on Monday.

Stein said shareholders should bear their fair share of the costs. And the attorney general objects to the commission's decision to let Duke earn a profit on cleanups — by charging customers more than the actual expenses. He said the company should not profit from fixing a problem it could have avoided.

Duke Energy said in a statement it believes the commission's decision "was fair and gives customers the full benefits of cleaner and more reliable power, while keeping rates as low as possible."

The statement added: "The Utilities Commission determined in their ruling that costs to comply with environmental requirements established by state and federal regulators are part of the normal operations of an energy company, and those costs are appropriate to include in customer bills. Managing waste and safely closing ash basins is also part of the work of supplying customers with reliable electricity to meet their energy needs."