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More advocates pan coal ash legislation

Coal AshAs this morning’s “Monday Numbers” make clear, the coal ash clean-up legislation making its way through the General Assembly falls short in numerous ways. This statement from the League of Conservation Voters expands on this conclusion:

Legislative Watch: Not Good Enough on Coal Ash

“We could and should have done better for the citizens of North Carolina,” declared Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford).

The N.C. House last week approved its version of SB 729, “Coal Ash Management Plan of 2014″, but the bill was not the significantly strengthened alternative that conservationists had been hoping to see. Instead, it continued to show the same major flaws found in the original Senate bill, plus one associated with its proposed new coal ash board:

• It fails to assign financial responsibility for cleanup to Duke Energy and its stockholders, leaving the likelihood that ratepayers will end up paying billions to correct Duke’s coal ash management errors.
• It allows coal ash pits to be “capped in place”, avoiding genuine cleanup and leaving groundwater and surface waters vulnerable to continued leaking and contamination.
• It fails to direct expeditious closure and cleanup of most coal ash pits, allowing long delays before corrective action.
• It authorizes a newly created Coal Ash Management Commission to delay cleanups and extend deadlines even further if it concludes that needed fixes are too expensive.

During extended floor debate, a majority of House members voted to reject numerous proposed strengthening amendments to the bill, including suggested additions to the priority cleanup list of sites. The House even rejected, 51-59, a modest suggestion of adding to the membership of the proposed ash commission an individual resident of a neighborhood near a coal ash pit.

More description of House debate can be found here.

SB 729 now returns to the Senate, which is expected to reject the House version and set up a conference committee to work out a compromise between the chambers. Conservationists regret that those talks appear unlikely now to include the strong and swift cleanup plans actually needed.

2 Comments

  1. James Easton

    July 7, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    I see a misinterpretation of the law as written. Capping in place is not allowed in that ground water contamination must be addressed under this law and under existing federal law. Simply placing a layer of concrete or plastic on top of the pond does nothing to address the source of ground water contamination. The term “capping in place” is a broad undefined term. Solidification is not capping in place. There is technology available to completely react the entire contents of any pond to concrete (encapsulating toxins under EPA guidelines) while also injecting chemical reactants to immobilize toxins in the ground water (in-situ geochemical fixation under EPA guidelines). The resultant concrete in the pond can be excavated, crushed and used safely as synthetic aggregate in virgin concrete for roads, highways, etc… The NC senate and House are aware of this technology, as is Duke Energy. Feel free to contact me for more information.

  2. ncsense

    July 7, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    Mr. Easton needs to read the bill. It is correct that the bill requires assessment and remediation of groundwater contamination. But then, whether you think it is a good idea or not, the bill allows a “low risk” coal ash impoundment to be dewatered and capped under the same closure standards applied to municipal solid waste landfills. Those standards allow the waste to be capped with an impermeable layer of at least 18 inches (largely clay) and then six inches of soil capable of growing vegetation. The bill does not require any sort of chemical treatment of the coal ash.