McCrory has sharp exchange with reporter over Duke Energy - WNCT

McCrory has sharp exchange with reporter over Duke Energy questions

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McCrory responds to reporter when questioned about Duke Energy McCrory responds to reporter when questioned about Duke Energy
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Gov. Pat McCrory had a sharp exchange with a reporter Friday when pressed about whether he had any conversations with his former employer, Duke Energy, about the coal ash spill in North Carolina.

"First of all, my emphasis is right here on the storm," McCrory said. "I'd be glad to have you talk to Secretary [John] Skvarla [of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources] regarding that but I have had no conversations with Duke Energy about the lawsuits or about the federal action.

"And I would also like to correct – Secretary Skvarla would like to correct – some of the information that you stated in your question. I think some of the premise of your question is totally inaccurate."

Asked in a follow-up if he would disclose whether he had any Duke Energy stock, McCrory said.

"I have stated in my records I have some 401-K and in my original 401-K some Duke Energy value, but in my 14 years as mayor of Charlotte, in my one year as governor, I separate my job as governor [from his investments]," McCrory said.

When a reporter started to ask a follow-up, McCrory quickly held out his arm and responded, Excuse me sir, but you have not been recognized, OK?"

McCrory continued, "I'll be glad to take any other …" At that point, a reporter again began to ask questions.

McCrory said, "Sir, excuse me sir, I told you I'd get John Skvarla back with you and we'd be glad to answer your questions. But it's no time to be disrespectful."

The press conference continued with questions about the Department of Transportation and the storm.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press has reported, Duke Energy said it will begin dredging coal ash out of a North Carolina river as the state's environmental agency moved to scuttle a previously proposed settlement with the company over pollution leaking from waste dumps at its power plants.

The AP reported that lawyers for DENR asked a judge late Monday to disregard its own proposed settlement with the nation's largest electricity provider. Under the deal, Duke would have paid fines of $99,111 for pollution that leaked from two coal dumps like the one that ruptured Feb. 2, spewing out enough toxic sludge into the Dan River to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools. The deal proposed over the summer covered plants near Asheville and Charlotte, while this month's spill was near the town of Eden.

The state dumped the settlement one day after a story by The Associated Press in which environmentalists criticized the arrangement as a sweetheart deal aimed at shielding Duke from far more expensive penalties the $50 billion company might face under the federal Clean Water Act.

The settlement would have required Duke to study how to stop the contamination, but included no requirement to clean up the dumps near Asheville and Charlotte.

McCrory said Tuesday a new task force would be created at the environmental agency within the month to assess all 31 of Duke's coal ash dumps in the state, according to the AP.

"We need a comprehensive plan to address the future of coal ash in North Carolina and we need to make sure we have all available resources to respond to this situation, including the knowledge we have gained during our environmental assessment and investigation into the spill of the coal ash into the Dan River," said McCrory, a Republican who worked at Duke Energy for 28 years.

On Feb. 2, a security guard at Duke's Dan River Steam Station discovered that a pipe running under a 27-acre toxic waste pond had collapsed. The company reports that up to 82,000 tons of coal ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water drained out, turning the river gray and cloudy for miles. The accident ranks as the third-largest such coal ash spill in the nation's history.

The public was not told about the breach until the following day and initial reports provided by Duke and DENR did not make the disaster's scale clear. It took six days for the company to seal the pipe.

State regulators initially said testing showed levels of arsenic, lead and other contaminants in the river were safe for fish and humans. On Sunday, however, the state officials admitted they had made an "honest mistake while interpreting the results" and warned people to avoid prolonged contact with the water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new test results Tuesday showing elevated levels for lead and copper in samples collected from the Dan River last week.

This report includes material reported earlier by The Associated Press.

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