Duke Energy fined $102 million for polluting rivers with coal ash

Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electrical utility, pleaded guilty in federal court May 14, 2015 to nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act for polluting four major rivers for several years with toxic coal ash from five power plants in North Carolina.

The $50.5-billion company was fined $102 million and placed on five years of probation for environmental crimes. All company compliance related to coal ash in five states will be overseen by a court-appointed monitor and reported to federal parole officers.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard approved the plea agreement following a 90-minute court session in which a Duke Energy lawyer repeated the words “guilty, your honor” more than 20 times.

The nine misdemeanor charges were filed against three Duke Energy subsidiaries, and the lawyer responded for each charge against each subsidiary. Howard found the utility guilty on all nine counts.

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