Feds in pursuit of felony in N.C. spill

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 9:09 p.m.

RALEIGH — Federal authorities have begun a criminal investigation into a coal ash spill into a North Carolina river, demanding that Duke Energy and state regulators hand over reams of documents related to the accident that left a waterway polluted with tons of toxic sludge.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh issued grand jury subpoenas seeking records from Duke and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The subpoenas seek emails, memos and reports related to the Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River and the state's oversight of the company's 30 other coal ash dumps in North Carolina.

The Associated Press obtained a copy on Thursday of the subpoena issued to the state through a public records request.

“An official criminal investigation of a suspected felony is being conducted by an agency of the United States and a federal grand jury,” said a cover letter accompanying the subpoena, which was dated Monday and signed by a criminal prosecutor.

The exact crime and precisely who is being targeted for potential prosecution is not spelled out in the document.

A Duke spokesman confirmed the nation's largest electricity provider had also received a subpoena.

Thomas Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said he could not comment on the subpoenas.

The spill at a Duke Energy plant in Eden spewed enough toxic sludge to fill 73 Olympic-sized pools, turning the river water a milky gray for miles. It was the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.

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