RALEIGH, N.C. -- The U.S. attorney in Raleigh has launched a criminal investigation into Duke Energy's coal ash spill at Dan River.
And North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke for more than two decades, is getting testy about questions over his financial interest in the utility.
A federal grand jury in Raleigh has subpoenaed records from Duke and from state regulators at NC DENR, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
A letter from the federal prosecutor says he's launched "an official criminal investigation of a suspected felony."
This afternoon in a news conference to talk about the winter storm, McCrory ducked questions about his relationship with Duke and referred them to his appointee saying, “My emphasis is right here on the storm, I'd be glad to have you talk to (DENR) Secretary Skavarla regarding that, but I have had no conversations with Duke Energy about the lawsuits or the federal action."
But when the questions kept coming from Associated Press reporters, McCrory talked over them and shut them down saying, "I didn't, I didn't, excuse me sir, but you have not been recognized. I'd be glad to take any other-- sir, excuse me sir, I told you I’d get John Skavarla back with you, we'd be glad to answer your questions, but it's no time to be disrespectful.”
McCrory filed an ethics report saying he still owns over $10,000 in Duke stock but he won't say exactly how much.
Some environmentalists see this as a blatant conflict of interest.
But attorney Frank Holleman at the Southern Environmental Law Center says McCrory is uniquely positioned to bring Duke and regulators together to fix the coal ash dumps.
“He appoints the head of DENR and he worked for a long time for Duke Energy, and Duke Energy worked hard to elect him governor."
One of those coal ash dumps is at the now closed Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake, the sole source of drinking water for more than a million people in Charlotte and Gaston County.
“It is unthinkable to store that much toxic substance in an unlined hole held back by an earthen dike, next to the water reservoir for one of the major metropolitan areas of the United States," Holleman said.
A legislative study panel holds hearing on Monday into the massive coal ash spill on the Dan River.
The Federal Grand Jury Subpoena demanded that Duke and DENR deliver a trove of records covering state enforcement of coal ash at Dan River by early March.
Both DENR and Duke Energy issued terse statements saying they will comply.