Commentary

The message behind McCrory’s lack of action on coal ash

Coal ash clean upThere have been several noteworthy reactions to Governor Pat McCrory’s strange decision to simply let the General Assembly’s coal ash legislation become law without his signature last week. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger came this close to accusing the Governor of – yikes! – improper bias toward his longtime employer when he said the following in a statement reported this morning by the Greensboro News & Record:

“The governor’s primary concern appears to be a desire to control the coal ash commission and avoid an independent barrier between his administration and former employer.”

Veteran environmental advocate and Winston-Salem city councilman Dan Besse got it just about right, however, when he authored the following for the weekly newsletter of N.C. League of Conservation Voters this morning:

Executive Watch: No Signature, No Veto, No Action

Nothing could symbolize Governor McCrory’s effective influence level at the NC General Assembly more precisely than what he finally chose to do regarding the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014.

Nothing.

No signature, but no veto either. He’s piqued that the legislature chose to create (and largely appoint) a special Coal Ash Management Commission, instead of leaving the task of carrying out legislative policy in his administration’s hands. He may ask the NC Supreme Court for an “advisory opinion” on the constitutionality of that commission.

Of course, his administration’s performance to date has hardly inspired confidence anywhere beyond the executive suites of Duke Energy. While McCrory focuses on protesting the special commission’s creation, his Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) continues to allow dozens of coal ash pits to continue to leak toxins into North Carolina’s ground- and surface waters. Aren’t you missing the real point here, governor?

Unfortunately, so does the Coal Ash Management Act. Concerned citizens may be excused for wondering whether they have a stake in this fight between the legislative and executive branches. It’s no wonder that frustrated citizen conservation groups have instead turned to the courts for action to force timely cleanup of toxic pollution from coal ash.

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