McCrory proposes new coal ash plan after spill

Governor McCrory calls for conversion or closure of all the state's coal ash ponds after massive spill.
April 16, 2014 3:41:56 PM PDT
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory Wednesday called for new regulation of coal ash ponds in the state following the failure of a pond at Duke Energy's Eden plant in February that sent millions of gallons of toxic ash as far as 70 miles down the Dan River.

In a news release, the governor's office said his plan would convert or close all of North Carolina's coal ash ponds and close loopholes in state law on their regulation. McCrory called the plan "innovative" and "aggressive" and would address an issue unresolved for decades.

"I'm proud to be the administration that has a plan that we've put forward," McCrory said. "I'm going to let the statement that I released speak for itself and I'm going to let John Skvarla later on - I think today or tomorrow - he'll be giving more details because it's a very detailed plan and a very detailed process."

Converting ponds would not remove ash from them. Instead, they'd be dried and capped in such a way to prevent water from flowing through them.

The governor said his proposed budget he'll be sending to the General Assembly will include funding for 19 new jobs to enforce environmental law.

"I know that the public and the General Assembly share our concerns about coal ash, and I ask them to work with me to make sure we tackle this problem head-on to address long-standing problems caused by the ash basins," said McCrory.

Environmentalists are pushing the state to use what they say is its existing legal authority to require Duke to haul more than 100 million tons of the toxic ash away from waterways to lined landfills licensed to handle hazardous waste.

In a letter to the state last month, Duke CEO Lynn Good said the company would remove the ash from its leaky pits at the Dan River plant and another plant while the company studies options at its remaining sites. Among those options is draining contaminated water from the pits and then covering the remaining ash with soil and giant tarps.

Peter Harrison, a lawyer with the environmental group WaterKeeper Alliance, said the statement McCrory issued Wednesday appears to adopt Duke's position.

"The governor has left plenty of room for Duke to do nothing more than empty the water out of its ash ponds and cover them with dirt," Harrison said.  "This approach is unacceptable because it would allow these toxic dumps to continue leaking and poisoning our rivers and groundwater supplies with toxic heavy metals for many years to come."


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