Poll: Voters Think Duke Energy Should Pay For Coal Ash Clean-Up, Not Customers

By Rachel Nash Posted March 13, 2014 at 3:45 pm

A new poll finds that almost 80 percent of North Carolinians think Duke Energy alone should pay for the clean-up efforts from the recent coal ash spill on the Dan River. Earlier this month, the nation’s largest utility decided that its customers would bear the burden through increased rates.

Tom Jensen, of the left-leaning Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, says the numbers also show bipartisan agreement that Duke Energy should pay for the clean-up.

“We find that 81 percent of Independents, 79 percent of Republicans, and 79 percent of Democrats alike think that it isn’t something that should be passed on to customers. It isn’t something that should be passed on to taxpayers,” Jensen says. “They all feel with regard to no party divide at all that it should be Duke Energy’s responsibility to clean this up.”

On February 2, an old stormwater pipe collapsed at Duke Energy’s plant in Eden on the Dan River. It has been estimated that the spill dumped at least 30,000 tons of pollutant into the river, coating approximately 70 miles. Coal ash contains toxic contaminants such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

Governor Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke Energy for more than 30 years, told reporters Monday that his main concern is cleaning up the spill and then finding a long-term solution for the more than 30 coal ash ponds located in North Carolina.

When it comes to how the Republican leader has handled the spill, the poll found a greater partisan divide. Jensen says Republicans think McCrory has done an “all right job,” whereas Democrats think he has done a poor job.

Overall, only 30 percent of voters give him good marks for how he has responded to the spill compared to 44 percent who disapprove. That is worse than his overall approval numbers, Jensen explains. Forty-seven percent of voters disapprove of the job McCrory is doing, compared to forty percent of who voters approve.

“And I definitely think that what your are seeing there with the coal ash numbers being worse than his overall numbers is some feeling that maybe he is not being tough with Duke Energy. I certainly think that a part of that could be his former employment there.”

Jensen says that not surprisingly, the coal ash spill has had a negative impact on Duke Energy’s image.

“Only 26 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of the company [compared to] 52 percent with an unfavorable opinion,” he says.

To see the full results of the poll, which was conducted between March 6-9, click here.

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