What has been clear for years, though, Robinson said, is that Duke makes decisions “that will enhance returns to its stockholders over and above the damage it has done to the environment and the people of North Carolina.” This track record made environmental groups in the area, including the Sierra Club, “bug Duke and the state Department of Environmental and Natural Resources for years.”

Yet Duke and the DENR have resisted doing anything about the coal ash problem for years, Robinson said.

Duke’s business model—one that relies on dirty, highly centralized energy, is “back in the dark ages,” he said. But it’s profitable, and with a board of directors representing the likes of construction companies and nuclear companies who profit from this model, of course Duke will resist moving towards decentralized, renewable energy, Robinson said.

Environmental advocates have also said that Duke’s February disaster when up to 35,000 tons of coal ash spewed into the Dan River highlights the need for better federal coal ash regulations for the many “ticking time bombs” across the nation. The disaster has also highlighted the close ties between industry and the North Carolina government.

The New York Times reported:

In 2013, Duke Energy made $2.7 billion in profits, while a recent study showed that it was among 26 Fortune 500 companies that paid no federal corporate taxes over the past five years.

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