On the final day of the “short session” both the House and Senate gave approval to a compromise plan that sets the wheels in motion to begin cleaning-up North Carolina’s 33 unlined coal ash pits.
Approval of the Coal Ash Management Act came 200 days after a major spill at a former Duke Energy power plant that dumped 40,000 tons of toxic sludge into the Dan River.
During Wednesday’s House debate, Rep. Nathan Baskerville argued the compromise plan did not go far enough. The Vance County Democrat noted that the Supreme Court sided with Duke Energy in its latest rate hike case, and that lawmakers should spell out that this clean-up would not end up costing consumers more.
Rep. Chuck McGrady, one of the key negotiators on the bill, reminded his colleagues this was just the first step:
“This is Coal Ash One. There’s going to be a Coal Ash Two,” explained the Henderson County Republican. “We’ve gotta get going, and this bill gets us going.”
Rep. Rick Glazier, who also worked on the compromise language, said the end product – while not perfect – was far stronger than House or Senate versions of the bill previously passed.
“The bill mandates all facilities be designated as high, intermediate or low risk and that all high risk ponds be sealed and closed in 5 years, intermediate in 10, and low risk in 15 years, with a critical new provision that assures no low risk facility may be simply capped in place if the coal ash residuals interact in any substantial manner with subsurface water,” wrote Glazier in a press release.
To hear some of the coal ash debate on the House floor, click below.