Lawmaker says one detail stopped coal ash bill - WRBL

Lawmaker says one detail stopped coal ash bill

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Lawmakers called it one of their top priorities but still can’t agree on a plan to clean up the state's coal ash. This comes nearly six months after thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River.

The Senate wrote a bill that would shut down all of Duke Energy’s ponds by 2029, but the chambers haven’t been able to agree on the details.

In a last-minute disagreement behind closed doors late Thursday night, an agreement fell through.

Sen. Rick Glazier of Cumberland County was the seven-member committee hashing out details.

"I'm sad because it wasn't necessary," he told WNCN. "This was a bill that, I think, all the public has been waiting for and I think we had an obligation to come out with a strong coal ash bill."

Glazier and two others refused to go along with the rest of the committee. They insisted the bill have a provision that no coal ash pond could be labeled "low risk" if it touched sub-surface water.

"The Senate, on that one provision, not only refused to sign the conference report, they refused to even accept it when we handed it to them," Glazier said.

Senate Leader Phil Berger, a Republican, said in a statement that Glazier was one of three House conferees who "went rogue and attempted to strong-arm entirely new policy no one had ever seen before."

But Glazier said all the changes discussed were new.

The Senate is not expected to pick it up again until it reconvenes in November.

In the meantime, Gov. Pat McCrory signed an executive order that he says move the issue forward.

“I issued this Executive Order to ensure that we don’t lose any more time in attacking this longstanding problem,” said Governor McCrory. “While we are moving forward through this order, it is not a substitute for comprehensive legislation, and numerous issues need to be addressed,” he added.  Executive Order 62 directs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to continue to implement all regulations and laws. As a result, DENR will:

  • Begin groundwater assessments of coal ash ponds at all 14 of Duke Energy’s facilities. These assessments are the first step toward closure of the ash ponds.
  • Take steps necessary to authorize the dewatering ponds at four priority facilities – Riverbend, Asheville, Sutton and Dan River.
  • Hire additional staff resources to handle the increased workload of the items above.
But critics say it’s a do-nothing order that just postpones requiring Duke to clean up its ash ponds.

“If North Carolina, in the face of an environmental disaster can't even agree on a resolution on this, it's an indication we need the EPA to set rules on this,” explained Dustin Chicurel-Bayard with the North Carolina Sierra Club.

“This is a multi-layered failure of leadership. Both chambers failed to offer the comprehensive cleanup plan they promised at the outset of session,” said Donna Lisenby, global coal campaign coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance. “Then they failed to take any action at all. We hope that lawmakers’ return in November will be a reboot of priorities. All North Carolina communities need protection from coal ash.”

WNCN's Jonathan Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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