Duke Energy fined over $100 million for environmental violations

Barclay's specialist trader Frank Masiello (R) works at the post that trades Duke Energy on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, in this file photo taken July 10, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) - Duke Energy Corp has agreed to pay a fine of about $102 million for environmental violations related to a power plant’s coal ash spill into a North Carolina river last year and the company’s management of coal ash basins in the state.

Duke set aside $100 million in the fourth quarter in anticipation of the settlement, the company said in an earnings statement.

The U.S. Department of Justice fined the company for five Clean Water Act violations at its Dan River and Riverbend steam stations and four Clean Water Act violations at the company’s H.F. Lee Steam, Cape Fear and Asheville electricity-generating plants, according to a company statement on Friday.

Apart from the monetary fines, Duke Energy will enter a five-year probation period, during which the company agreed to establish environmental compliance plans under the supervision of a court-appointed monitor, the cost of which shall be borne by the company.

Additionally, Duke Energy will have to maintain $500 million as security to meet their obligations under the plea agreements, the statement added.

A pipe break at a retired Duke coal plant triggered the third-worst coal ash spill in U.S. history, prompting North Carolina’s state Senate to ask Duke to close 33 coal ash ponds in the state within 15 years.

Duke Energy sells power to 7.2 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

Reporting by Anupam Chatterjee in Bangalore