Utilities Commission records subpoenaed in ash probe

Records from the N.C. Utilities Commission have been subpoenaed as part of a federal grand jury investigation prompted by the Duke Energy ash spill on the Dan River.

The subpoena, issued last month, asks for records related to ash-pond dam inspections formerly reported to the Utilities Commission. It also seeks documents on illicit seeps and discharges from those dikes.

The grand jury will meet in Raleigh for three days next week. U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker’s office has refused to confirm an investigation is underway.

Subpoenas have also gone to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to 18 current or former water-quality officials, and to Duke.

A subpoena to DENR initially sought records for Duke’s Dan River plant, where the spill occurred Feb. 2, as part of a grand jury investigation of a “suspected felony.” A second round of subpoenas went to 18 current and former water-quality officials within the agency.

Duke acknowledged also getting two subpoenas in February but would not discuss them further.

The Utilities Commission had responsibility for ash-pond dam inspections, which were done every five years, until 2010.

The Feb. 18 subpoena to the commission sought the three most recent inspection reports for each of Duke’s 14 coal-fired power plants. It also sought records on seepage and illegal discharges that DENR cited in four lawsuits against Duke last year, and for communications between Duke and the commission on those suits.

Utilities Commission general counsel Sam Watson had no comment on the subpoenas.