NC Treasurer wants investigation into coal ash spill - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

NC Treasurer wants investigation into "decisions that led" to coal ash spill

NC Treasurer Janet Cowell is asking for an independent investigation into decisions that led to the coal ash spill at a Duke Energy facility NC Treasurer Janet Cowell is asking for an independent investigation into decisions that led to the coal ash spill at a Duke Energy facility

RALEIGH, NC (WECT/AP) - The North Carolina official who manages public pension funds says she'll vote against a Duke Energy board member in hopes that a replacement will deal with a coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of a river with toxic sludge.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell declared Wednesday she'll vote against Duke Energy director Carlos Saladrigas's re-election at the company's shareholder meeting on Thursday. A letter sent from Cowell's office to the Chair of the company's Regulatory Policy and Operations Committee states she wants a third vacancy on the board committee overseeing company operations.

"We feel its best that folks who have been on the board and overseeing the regulatory issues to be replaced by people who have more expertise specifically on coal ash disposal and some of the environmental issues they are grappling with right now," Cowell said while making an appearance Wednesday at WECT-TV in Wilmington.

A Cowell spokesman says North Carolina's pension funds own less than one-tenth of 1 percent of Duke Energy shares. Cowell put the total at more than 400,000 shares, which she says have underperformed both the Standard & Poor's 500 and comparable utility industry stocks.

"Since the coal ash challenges the company has had, the stock has underperformed," Cowell said in an interview. "So, we're asking as a shareholder, and using the influence we have as a shareholder of Duke Energy to ask for an independent investigation in order to more quickly move forward on the coal ash issue."

A company spokesman noted the company's directors have told disgruntled shareholders they are developing plans to deal with coal ash.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All right reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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