Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
In a letter to the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said prior to 2013, Duke Energy was allowed to operate coal-ash plants that potentially threatened North Carolina's environment.
John Skvarla became the secretary of DENR that year.
DENR sent the letter after the law center said it planned to sue for alleged Clean Water Act violations.
The agency said it will take time as it addresses the long-ignored problem that took 60 years to create, and it would hold Duke Energy responsible and accountable by law.
DENR's letter notes that the citizens groups and DENR agree on an important point -- that regulation on coal ash has been lax in the past: "It is clear that prior to January 2013 when this administration took office, Duke Energy was allowed to operate coal ash impoundments resulting in groundwater contamination that potentially threatens North Carolina's environment and public health."
The agency has taken a more strident approach to address groundwater and coal ash contamination than any previous administration, and took many of those actions before the Dan River spill in February 2014 and the SELC's notices of intent to sue letters.
Earlier this month, North Carolina lawmakers passed a bill aimed at cleaning up toxic coal-ash dumps in North Carolina.
Gov. Pat McCrory hasn't signed that bill.
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