Investors, protesters speak out to Duke Energy's board on issues surrounding coal ash spill

The Associated Press

About 200 protesters carry signs and demonstrate in front of Duke Energy office building Thursday, May 1, 2014, as shareholders held their annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C. Some Duke Energy investors plan to push the utility's board of directors to investigate issues surrounding a massive coal ash spill that dumped toxic sludge into a 70-mile stretch of a North Carolina river. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, T. Ortega Gaines) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; NEWSPAPER INTERNET ONLY (REV-SHARE)

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Duke said it can't yet assess what costs may result from new laws affecting how the company handles the ash at its coal ash dumps in North Carolina, or from future legal claims, litigation or environmental fines.

Federal prosecutors have issued at least 23 subpoenas as part of a widening criminal probe triggered by the spill. They are looking at whether the company received preferential treatment from the state environmental agency.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has made a proposal he said would strengthen government oversight of the state's coal ash dumps. But the governor's plan didn't address what will happen to Duke's ash pits.

McCrory, a Republican who worked at Duke for more than 28 years before retiring, said his plan would result in the "conversion or closure" of the dumps and close legal loopholes that allowed Duke to avoid cleaning up groundwater contamination leaching from unlined ash pits.

All of Duke's ash pits are along the state's rivers and lakes — and the governor's plan doesn't force the company to move them. Instead, his plan allows Duke to study the issue and set a timetable for how to eventually close the waste dumps.

Environmentalists have sharply criticized McCrory's plan, saying it doesn't go far enough.

A few hours after the close of the shareholder meeting, the N.C. Ethics Commission released McCrory's 2014 statement of economic interests disclosing his financial holdings.

Last year, McCrory disclosed owning shares of Duke stock in excess of $10,000, but he was not required under state ethics rules to say precisely how much. After the Dan River spill, McCrory refused to disclose the full value of his holdings in the company.

The new form, filed by McCrory with the commission on April 15, lists no shares in Duke.

McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis confirmed Thursday that the governor had fully divested himself of shares in his former employer.

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Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker contributed from Raleigh.

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