Norway’s massive wealth fund said Wednesday it is divesting from one of the largest U.S. utilities over concerns it is not doing enough to reduce pollution.
The country’s oil-dependent $900 billion sovereign wealth fund said it can no longer hold assets in Duke Energy, or its subsidiaries, primarily because of the utility’s supposedly poor track record handling coal ash left over from burned coal mixed with water.
U.S. courts ordered Duke to seal the ash basins at its North Carolina facilities in June. It notified the Norway fund’s Council on Ethics that the court order could not be fully put in place for another decade, maybe longer.
The Council on Ethics did not respond well to the timeline.
“The companies have been very reticent about implementing measures and have still not agreed on binding plans to remove all the ash basins,” the Council on Ethics said. “The companies have been repeatedly fined for leaks and pollution.”
It said it couldn’t abide by what it argues is Duke’s feet dragging on the issue.
Duke has nearly $52.1 billion in assets, and a power generating capacity of more than 50,000 megawatts. Norway’s fund held more than $400 million of Duke Energy shares in 2015.
The utility balked at the idea it was moving to slowly, with Duke officials telling reporters they were disappointed the fund wasn’t willing to work with them on cleaning the basins.
“We have made significant progress closing ash basins in ways that put safety first, protect the environment and minimize the impact to local communities,” the utility said.
Norway, for its part, has continued pouring subsidies into the sovereign fund, which is heavily dependent on oil revenues from the country, in an effort to prop up its electric vehicle market.
The subsidies are also meant to help the country become carbon neutral by 2030, and ban gasoline-fueled cars.
Norway has already made about $178,000 off of the country’s oil and gas deposits per Norwegian.
Norway prohibited the selling of all gasoline-powered cars by 2025, according to a June report by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv.
The ban, which received support from political parties on the left and the right, is pegged to be the most aggressive anti-gasoline energy policies of its kind in the world.
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