Duke Energy to face judge on April 16

Duke Energy will go before a federal judge in Greenville on April 16 for a plea and sentencing hearing on nine criminal counts linked to its coal ash practices.

U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker’s Raleigh office made the announcement Thursday without further comment. U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard has been assigned the case.

Prosecutors in three federal districts filed nine criminal charges Feb. 20 accusing Duke of violating the Clean Water Act by polluting four of the state’s rivers with coal ash.

Four of the misdemeanor counts stem from Duke’s Dan River power plant in Eden, 130 miles northeast of Charlotte, where a spill of 39,000 tons of ash a year ago prompted a grand jury investigation.

Other violations occurred at power plants near Charlotte, Asheville, Goldsboro and Moncure in Chatham County, according to the charges.

Duke has said it negotiated a proposed agreement, which must be approved by a judge, to resolve the charges.

Duke would pay $68.2 million in fines and restitution and $34 million for community service and mitigation projects. The money would come from shareholders, not customers.

No individuals were named in the charges.

The agreement includes five years of probation with a court-appointed monitor to ensure Duke complies with its provisions.

Duke would submit environmental compliance plans to the court, including additional training, audits, reporting and other measures related to ash basins.

The agreement has not been released but Duke has said it will be made public if the court accepts it.

North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources fined Duke a state record $25.1 million Tuesday for groundwater contamination at its Sutton power plant in Wilmington.

More state fines are expected.

Henderson: 704-358-5051;

Twitter: @bhender