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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Internal emails between staff at North Carolina's environmental agency show state regulators were coordinating with Duke Energy before intervening in efforts by citizens groups trying to sue the company over pollution leeching from its coal ash dumps.

The emails were provided Thursday to The Associated Press by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which had filed notice in January 2013 of its intent to sue Duke under the Clean Water Act.

Within days, the emails show a Duke lobbyist contacted the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where staff exchanged messages discussing "how Duke wants to be sued."

The agency used its authority to intervene in the lawsuit, quickly negotiating a proposed settlement where the $50 billion company would pay a $99,100 fine but be under no requirement to stop its pollution.