North Carolina governor vetoes latest coal ash bill

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) said June 6 that it is disappointed with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of Senate Bill 71, which it said has broad bipartisan support from lawmakers, the environmental and business communities who recognize the opportunity for North Carolina to continue leading on coal ash management.

“We don’t understand why the Governor would veto a bill that makes North Carolina’s Coal Ash law even stronger,” Duke said. “Very importantly, it reconstitutes a Commission that will evaluate the safety and cost of any closure plan on customers. The legislation gives our state the flexibility to make better basin closure decisions based on new information and the completion of facility improvement projects. Senate Bill 71 also encourages safe recycling of coal ash, which is non-hazardous, and gives plant neighbors certainty about their water quality. Extensive science and engineering studies demonstrate that basins are not impacting neighbor wells, but extending a permanent water supply to those neighbors benefits all customers because it preserves the wide range of closure options.”

McCrory said in a June 6 statement that he vetoed Senate Bill 71 because it weakens environmental protections, delays water connections for well owners, ignores dam safety, hinders efforts to reuse coal ash and violates the state constitution.

“This legislation is not good for the environment or for the rule of law in North Carolina,” said McCrory. “This bill lacks a firm deadline to connect well owners to alternate water supplies.”

In addition to the veto, the McCrory administration will ask a court to require Duke Energy to meet an accelerated timeline for connecting alternate water supplies. The administration will also seek a court order to ensure that dam repairs are completed and coal ash is reused in an environmentally-sound way.   Senate Bill 71 delays the cleanup and closure of coal ash ponds across the state, the governor said. The McCrory administration proposed a solution that would have provided water connections within 18 months and required Duke Energy to repair dams around its coal ash ponds.

Furthermore, Senate Bill 71 disregards a recent 6-1 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling which declared the three commissions at issue in this bill unconstitutional, said McCrory. This bill continues to violate the separation of powers by re-establishing unaccountable bureaucracies that have the power to make or overrule executive decisions, he added.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.