Settlement of 2014 Ash Spill Will Cost Duke Energy $100 Million

In a proposed settlement with the U.S. government over a 2014 coal-ash spill in North Carolina, Duke Energy will pay fines totaling more than $68 million, along with $34 million for ash-basin mitigation and community service, the Charlotte, N.C., utility said on Feb. 20.

In the accident, a 48-in.-dia stormwater pipe beneath an Eden, N.C., coal-fired powerplant's main ash basin broke, spilling 39,000 tons of wet ash into the Dan River over a period of days. Duke says the agreement also covers unauthorized discharges or maintenance issues at four other company plants in the state.

UMass-Amherst Reverses Ban On Iranian Engineering Students

Facing a strong backlash, officials of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on Feb. 18 reversed a two-week-old policy to ban Iranian nationals from admission to graduate programs in chemistry, computers, mechanical engineering and the natural sciences to comply with the school's interpretation of a 2012 federal law enacted to preclude Iranian student study in energy or nuclear specialties. After talks with the U.S. State Dept., Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement, said the school will develop "individualized study plans" for Iranian students.

The National Iranian American Council, a non-profit group that criticized the policy in a Feb. 13 letter as "a flawed interpretation of U.S. law," said it will review the study-plan. An NIAC spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that similar restrictions may exist at other U.S. schools.

Tools Coming To Aid Spending Decisions About Resilience

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has awarded $20 million to Colorado State University to set up the Community Resilience Center for Excellence. The center, funded at $4 million for five years, will develop computer-based tools to help local governments decide how best to invest resources to lessen the impact of extreme weather and other events on buildings and infrastructure. Besides CSU, nine other colleges are participating in the NIST project.