In a filing with the N.C. Utilities Commission last week, the company said it likely would ask the commission to approve new rates taking coal ash costs into consideration “within the next 12 months.”

“We are not asking for a change in customer rates at this time, but are asking regulators to reserve these costs for potential consideration in a future rate proceeding,” Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said of the filing Tuesday.

The Charlotte-based utility’s petition seeks to delay accounting for much of its coal ash spending until that next rate adjustment. The utility continues spending heavily on coal ash, so total costs under consideration then might be more than documented in Friday’s filing.

The ultimate tally for closing coal ash storage sites in line with new state and federal rules eventually could climb to $4.5 billion, an estimate that also is subject to change as new regulations come into sharper focus, the company said in its petition.

“Our regulators will ultimately determine any rate changes through a robust, public rate-making process in the months ahead,” Duke Energy’s Brooks said of the seven-member state utilities panel.

He added that Duke Energy has worked hard over the years in North Carolina “to keep energy costs affordable and lower than the national average.”

Closing out the Dan River Steam Station’s two coal ash basins in Rockingham County figured prominently in $434.4 million in cleanup spending that Duke Energy’s latest filing attributed to the utility’s Carolinas division during the past two years.

Company officials hasten to say that none of those costs stemmed directly from the February 2014 coal ash spill at the retired, coal-fired plant near Eden.

“No fines or penalties, or costs associated with the Dan River pipe break, repair and resulting spill cleanup are included in these amounts,” Brooks said.

Duke Energy is excavating coal ash stored dry in one part of the Eden site, shipping it by rail to a landfill in Virginia and will build its own landfill near the retired plant to hold the rest of the former plant’s ash.

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