RALEIGH, N.C. -- A federal grand jury in Raleigh investigating whether crimes were committed in the Dan River coal ash spill has issued new subpoenas vastly expanding its scope. The new subpoenas order dozens of state employees to testify whether they gave or received anything of value from Duke Energy, the operator of the coal lagoons.
The NC Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) held an hour long news conference to discuss the spill but refuse to answer questions about the criminal probe.
A department spokesman issued a terse statement simply saying that the Department would cooperate with the criminal inquiry.
DENR Secretary John Skvarla said that he had held Duke’s feet to the fire over previous coal ash leaks and been the only one to issue a fine for coal ash violations in state history.
Skvarla was appointed Secretary of DENR by Governor Pat McCrory, himself a longtime Duke Energy employee, with the pledge to be more customer friendly -- widely viewed in the state capital as a way of saying he would be pro-industry.
But Skvarla insists his department sided with citizens environmental groups in suing Duke over coal ash violations.
The groups were not invited to the news conference and responded by openly scoffing at Skvarla’s claims.
Governor Pat McCrory said earlier this week that Duke should remove coal ash from storage beside waterways, but his office later issued a statement calling coal ash removal only one of a number of options to deal with the dumps.
Coal ash ponds twice the size of the Dan River ponds leak into Mountain Island Lake, the sole source of drinking water for more than a million people in Charlotte and Gaston County.