The North Carolina General Assembly on Aug. 20 approved contentious legislation that would cover cleanup of coal ash sites in the state, which became a hot button issue earlier this year due to a major ash spill at Duke Energy’s (NYSE: DUK) shut Dan River coal plant.
The measure goes to Gov. Pat McCrory, a retired Duke Energy executive, before becoming law. Environmentalists and some Democrats said the legislation doesn’t go far enough. Others called it a starting point for dealing with a long-running problem.
Lynn Good, president, CEO and vice chairman of Duke Energy, said in a brief Aug. 20 statement about approval of the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act: “The comprehensive action by North Carolina lawmakers gives Duke Energy direction to move forward with a stronger standard for the management of coal ash at our facilities. We will immediately begin adapting our strategy to meet the requirements in the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act.”
Among other things, the bill, due to the complexity and magnitude of the issues associated with the management of coal combustion residuals and the proper closure and remediation of coal combustion residuals surface impoundments, creates a Coal Ash Management Commission. The commission members would be named by the General Assembly and the governor.
The Southern Environmental Law Center said in an Aug. 19 statement as the bill neared final passage coal that it fails to require cleanup of 10 coal ash sites across North Carolina by allowing Duke Energy to leave icoal ash in unlined, leaking pits at 10 of 14 sites.
Allowing coal ash to be left in unlined, leaking pits across North Carolina with documented groundwater contamination at each site is not a cleanup plan nor does it protect the people of North Carolina, the center said. Many sites across the country where coal ash has been covered up or “capped” in place continue to experience high levels of toxic pollution, it added.
Politicians inserted language into Senate Bill 729 that guts existing law and undermines citizens groups’ ongoing efforts to ensure real cleanup of these polluting sites under existing law, the environmental group added.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represents citizens groups in various court cases designed to force the clean up Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution across North Carolina.