B&D's Chairman Completes Court Appointed Monitorship of Duke Energy Coal Ash Cleanup After Five Years

On May 13, 2020, Beveridge & Diamond Chairman Ben Wilson submitted his final Annual Report to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in his role as Court Appointed Monitor for the Duke Energy coal ash cleanup. The final report brings to a close the five-year probation term imposed on Duke Energy in 2015.

The Monitorship arose in response to criminal charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in the wake of the 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River. Duke pled guilty to nine misdemeanor counts of unlawfully discharging coal ash and coal-ash-impacted water into North Carolina waterways. The criminal fines and other penalties in the case totalled $102 million, the largest ever for a federal case in the state. Contemporaneous press coverage in the Charlotte Business Journal is available here and here.

Upon imposing detailed probation requirements to spur Duke to ensure timely coal ash cleanup and improve its environmental compliance systems, Judge Malcolm Howard chose Ben Wilson to serve as Court-Appointed Monitor (CAM) beginning in August 2015. As CAM, Mr. Wilson closely monitored Duke Energy’s coal ash cleanups at four priority sites in North Carolina and oversaw third-party environmental compliance audits of Duke’s twenty-one coal ash facilities across the Southeast and Midwest. He also oversaw the company’s development and implementation of coal-ash related environmental compliance plans, and developed and implemented a claims process to compensate municipalities for impacts to drinking water treatment systems from upstream wastewater discharges.

Over the course of the Monitorship, Duke Energy excavated over 20 million tons of coal ash. As detailed in the final Annual Report, Duke Energy spent significant resources on and has demonstrated significant progress in building a stronger culture of compliance. Duke’s success in maintaining and building upon its progress under the Monitorship now rests in its own hands.

Mr. Wilson received invaluable assistance from a team of B&D attorneys, including Pam Marks (Principal, Baltimore), Parker Moore (Principal, Washington, DC), Bryan Moore (Principal, Austin), Steve Richmond (Principal, Baltimore), Ben Apple (Associate, Washington, DC), and Jessalee Landfried (Associate, Washington, DC).