CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Duke Energy is asking a judge to prevent citizens groups from taking part in any enforcement action that would make the company clean up nearly three dozen coal ash pits across North Carolina.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources filed a complaint against Duke last year. Several citizens groups got involved in the case, saying the waste dumps polluted groundwater.
But Duke filed a motion Monday to remove the citizens' groups from the case.
The company said the groups have an "independent right" to file claims and seek relief. But they are "prohibited from expanding this enforcement action beyond the claims asserted and relief sought by" the state environmental agency.
Duke did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.
The company also filed motions in response to the state's enforcement action, denying allegations in the complaint.
Drew Elliot, a spokesman for the state regulatory agency, said he couldn't comment about Duke's action.
"We're back to a period of very actively litigation on the matter, and we will have to stick with what we said in our lawsuits," he said.
But Frank Holleman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Duke's motion runs counter to what the company has been saying since a Feb. 2 massive coal ash spill at Duke's plant in Eden, which coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge.
"What Duke's CEO has been saying publicly is they accept responsibility. Duke officials have said they are better than this, that they want to do the right thing for the state and they want to take action to protect our water resources. But instead of cleaning up, what they've done is lawyer up. They have filed a legal document in court denying any legal liability whatsoever," he said.
Holleman said Duke is taking the position that community groups should not play any role in the case.
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