Caught Fudging Science, Duke Power Attacks Reporters Privilege

August 24, 2016

Embroiled in a growing scandal about efforts to cover up the science on the threat posed by coal ash to North Carolinians' drinking water, Duke Energy has moved boldly to take the messenger to court.

Duke is asking a court to hold a hearing to discover the source of a document leaked to the Associated Press. The AP isn't saying how they got it.

It was a scoop — by now an old one — when AP reporters got the 220-page deposition by North Carolina state toxicologist Ken Rudo, given in a lawsuit over whether pollution from Duke's coal ash would poison wells of some residents.

Rudo, an employee of North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services, gave the deposition in a lawsuit over Gov. McCrory's administration's flip-flop on coal-ash toxicity. In summer 2015, the state warned residents near certain Duke Energy coal-ash disposal sites their well water was unsafe to drink. Then in March 2016, the state completely reversed its position and told them it was safe. McCrory worked for Duke for 29 years before becoming governor.

The environmental group (Yadkin Riverkeeper) in the underlying lawsuit against Duke is represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). Rudo testified under oath in the deposition that state health director Randall Williams "knowingly told people that their water was safe when we knew it wasn’t." Duke asked the judge to seal the deposition. SELC actually released part of the deposition before the AP acquired the full version. SELC has denied providing the testimony to the AP.

Even before his deposed testimony, Rudo had stated publicly the essence of it.

North Carolina has a "shield law," protecting journalists in most cases from disclosing confidential sources.

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