Duke Energy has pleaded guilty in federal court to environmental crimes and has agreed to pay $102 million in fines and restitution over years of illegal pollution leaking from coal-ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants.
Duke Energy appeared Thursday before a federal judge in Greenville, N.C., Thursday to settle criminal charges stemming from its 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River.
Prosecutors in all three of the state’s federal districts filed criminal charges against three Duke subsidiaries in February. That was about a year after a broken pipe dumped up to 39,000 tons of ash into the Dan near the Virginia border.
Duke struggled for six days to cap the pipe following the third-largest ash spill of the past decade. Ash flowed 62 miles downstream to Kerr Reservoir in eastern Virginia.
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Duke and the government negotiated a settlement that will came before Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard.
Under the agreement, Duke was to plead guilty to nine misdemeanors for ash-related violations at five power plants.
The charges say Duke failed to maintain equipment at the Dan River plant, the scene of the spill, and the Cape Fear plant in Chatham County.
They say Duke illegally discharged ash or water from ash ponds at the Dan River plant and power plants near Charlotte, Asheville and Goldsboro.
The $68 million fine Duke has agreed to pay would be one of the largest ever levied under the landmark Clean Water Act.
Duke also would serve five years of probation and pay $34 million for environmental projects in North Carolina and Virginia. The Associated Press contributed to this story.