As 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.
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.