CLASS ACTION AGAINST DUKE ENERGY
BROUGHT BY NORTH CAROLINA PLANT NEIGHBORS
August 23, 2017 – Amy Brown of Belmont and Deborah Graham of Salisbury, along with representatives of other neighborhoods near Duke power plants, filed a class action lawsuit today in Raleigh. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and damages against Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC and Duke Energy Progress, LLC. It asks the court to determine the rights of the local homeowners and of Duke under a financial supplement agreement Duke has offered. Duke is the nation’s largest public utility.
The families all live within half a mile of coal ash ponds at Duke’s power plants. Coal ash is the waste generated by coal-fired power plants. When Duke burned coal to generate electricity, it sent the coal ash waste to unlined ponds. The coal ash contains cancer-causing substances and contaminants such as arsenic, lead, manganese, vanadium and heavy metals. Because the ponds were unlined, the contaminants leaked polluting the environment.
The families once used private wells and did not have to pay water bills. Then, their water quality was called into question after the Dan River spill. Now, they are in the process of receiving connections to public water supplies. Some of the homes will get water filter systems instead.
Under the Coal Ash Management Act passed by the state legislature in 2014 and amended in 2016, Duke must provide connections to public water supplies and filter systems. Duke has also offered $5000 or more to help pay for transition costs and water bills. But for families to get the money, Duke is demanding they must sign a waiver of liability. The families say the waiver is unfair. They question why Duke should be able to make them give up the ability to sue in the future – especially when Duke insists coal ash is not dangerous.
Deborah Graham, one of the Plaintiffs, asks: “What if the contaminants were to cause a disease? What if someday, another spill occurs? Why should we give away our right to sue?”
Many of these families also pay power bills to Duke. They claim that as a public utility, Duke is not allowed to make them sign a release. The families say they had nothing to do with the coal ash problems that the public utility now faces.
Plaintiff Amy Brown states, “My well tested positive for some of the same contaminants that are in the coal ash. I spoke to health officials who told me that my water is not safe for my children to drink. I am not taking any chances when it comes to my children. I have been on bottled water over 800 days.”
Deborah Graham adds, “Duke wants us to sign away any claims we might have, present or future, having anything to do with coal ash. Why would Duke want this if they believe it is safe?”
The families are represented by:
• WALLACE & GRAHAM, P.A. — Mona Lisa Wallace, John Hughes, Marlowe Rary, 525 N. Main St., Salisbury, NC 28144, (704) 633-5244.
• LAW OFFICE OF F. BRYAN BRICE, JR. — F. Bryan Brice, Jr., Catherine Cralle Jones, 127 W. Hargett Street, Suite 600, Raleigh, NC 27601, (919) 754-1600.
• BARON & BUDD, P.C.– Cary L. McDougal, 3102 Oak Lawn Avenue, Suite 1100, Dallas, Texas 75219, (214) 521-3605.