With the General Assembly preparing to reconvene in a little over two weeks, the editorial board of the Fayetteville Observer reminds lawmakers that it’s time to deal with the state’s coal-ash problems once and for all.
In a weekend editorial, the paper writes that “laissez-faire policies” do not make the state business friendly, they simply make the state unregulated, putting our water and air at risk. You can read the full editorial below:
A legislative panel last week began gathering information about the logistics and costs of dealing with Duke Energy’s 33 unlined coal-ash dumps at its 14 coal-fired power plants across North Carolina. It won’t be cheap.
The members of the General Assembly’s Environmental Review Commission have yet to begin drafting specific legislation to regulate coal ash. The lack of regulation is one of the reasons why a coal-ash pond at a Duke plant in Eden ruptured in early February, coating about 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic gray sludge.
Duke has more than 100 million tons of coal ash stored at its power plants, mostly in waste ponds that are unlined and are slowly leaching contaminants like arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium into the ground – and sooner or later, in many cases, into public and private water supplies.
We know how it was allowed to happen: Lax environmental oversight is a longtime hallmark of North Carolina government. What’s important now is how our government will alter that dangerous course.
Duke Energy officials told lawmakers last week that removing all of the company’s coal ash from storage ponds near rivers and lakes would cost as much as $10 billion. The company added that most of the cost would be passed along to its power customers.
That’s really not Duke’s call, though. State regulators have a say in rate-setting decisions, and there’s a case to be made for Duke shareholders absorbing some of the expenses coming from management’s failure to protect the public from the hazardous waste the company creates.
Gov. Pat McCrory is adamant that the company (his former longtime employer) can’t be forced into a one-size-fits-all solution. But neither is it acceptable that hazardous waste be stored in unlined pits adjacent to public water supplies. We don’t need further proof that it’s dangerous.
Although Duke has shut down some of its coal-fired plants, it’s still creating about 6,000 tons of ash every day. It’s got to be stored or disposed of more safely. And it’s up to the governor and General Assembly to make that happen.
We’re all for being a business-friendly state. But we need to be resident-friendly too. That means making and enforcing laws that keep our air and water clean. The sorry laissez-faire policies of the past aren’t the answer – and never were.