News: Quick Takes

Coal ash cleanup bill heads to governor

Measure would put DEQ in charge of cleanup, require Duke Energy to provide access to drinking water to residents near ponds

Image of Belews Creek coal ash pond (Graphic from N.C. Department of Environmental Quality website)
Image of Belews Creek coal ash pond (Graphic from N.C. Department of Environmental Quality website)

The state House on Thursday approved a compromise coal ash cleanup bill, agreeing with a measure passed earlier in the week by the Senate. The coal ash legislation is in response to a 2014 spill into the Dan River near Eden. The General Assembly created a coal ash commission to oversee the cleanup. However, the N.C. Supreme Court, citing a violation of separation of powers, found the commission unconstitutional.

House Bill 630, which abolishes the Coal Ash Management Commission and places supervision of Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds under the Department of Environmental Quality, now goes to Gov. Pat McCrory. McCrory vetoed a bill earlier this year that modified appointments to the coal ash commission.

In addition, the bill would require Duke Energy to provide permanent alternative water supplies for residents surrounding the ponds. Duke, which owns the ponds, also would be required to process coal ash for commercial use at three sites.

“Some North Carolina citizens are waiting on a peace of mind, waiting for permanent safe drinking water and we’re still here talking about it,” Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, said. “The public hates governmental gridlock.”

Arp said the bill helps ensure public safety and requires Duke Energy to ensure that repairs of dams at coal ash ponds are promptly completed.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, said the bill isn’t strong enough.

“This is going to be a problem for decades and perhaps as much as a century to come,” Harrison said. “It’s a continued health risk for those living nearby or downstream.”

The bill passed the House 82-32.