In a remarkable sweetheart deal anchored with $1 million in campaign contributions, Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration yesterday agreed to settle a lawsuit against Duke Energy’s pollution of drinking water supplies in western North Carolina. Millions of tons of ash residue from Duke’s power plants have leaked contaminants into Mountain Island Lake near Charlotte and the French Broad River near Asheville. The problems have been known for years, but McCrory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources signed an agreement that delays remedial action, calls for more study of the pollution, and fines Duke a piddling $99,112. Given Duke’s $19.6 billion in 2012 operating revenues, that’s the equivalent of fining a person with a $60,000 salary a total of 30 cents.
Under the agreement, Duke receives amnesty for its previous pollution, can continue leaching contaminants into the water, and gets to decide when its research shows that the contamination is significant enough to address. Gov. McCrory is largely turning over his responsibility to protect the public’s health to his former employer. The agreement is subject to 30 days of public comment before it can become effective.
The cozy relationship between Duke Energy and the McCrory administration becomes clearer when you follow the political money. In addition to working at Duke for nearly 30 years, holding its stock, and recruiting several Duke executives into his administration, McCrory has greatly benefitted from the political contributions of Duke Energy and Progress Energy, which is now part of Duke. In fact, he received over $300,000 in direct contributions for his 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns from Duke-related donors, plus a major Republican committee that spent millions to help elect him, received an additional $761,800 from Duke and Progress Energy. That adds up to more than $1 million from Duke-related donors that has directly or indirectly helped McCrory’s political career in the last several years.
For more details about the political money, click here.