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Duke Energy sues insurers for payments to cover coal ash costs

Duke Energy on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against more than two dozen insurers, a move the Charlotte-based utility says will help cover some costs tied to its expensive coal ash cleanup across North and South Carolina. Pictured: Charlotte’s Duke Energy Center, the utility’s headquarters.
Duke Energy on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against more than two dozen insurers, a move the Charlotte-based utility says will help cover some costs tied to its expensive coal ash cleanup across North and South Carolina. Pictured: Charlotte’s Duke Energy Center, the utility’s headquarters. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Duke Energy on Wednesday filed a civil lawsuit against more than two dozen insurers, a move the Charlotte-based utility says will help cover some costs tied to its expensive coal ash cleanup across North and South Carolina.

The electric utility names 30 insurers in the suit, which seeks insurance payments that Duke claims the companies have failed to turn over. Duke, which filed the suit in state court in Mecklenburg County, says the claims could total hundreds of millions of dollars.

The legal action comes as Duke faces massive costs connected to coal ash, an issue for which the company has been under fire following a 2014 spill into the Dan River near Virginia.

Figures Duke released in February place cleanup costs in the Carolinas at nearly $5.2 billion over several years, a tally 50 percent higher than earlier estimates. Duke is also expected to seek rate hikes this year that will begin its efforts to pass cleanup costs to its North Carolina customers.

Duke’s suit also cites expenses from compliance with new state and federal coal ash laws and regulations, such as a 2014 North Carolina law that requires the company to monitor groundwater for contamination.

In a statement Wednesday, Duke said it is “working hard” to manage its coal ash costs, “including pursuing claims under insurance policies that we believe may cover some of the expenses being incurred in North Carolina and South Carolina.”

“Net proceeds of any insurance monies we collect will benefit customers in the Carolinas, offsetting the total price tag of this important work,” the company said.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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