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State lawmakers may come together with a final budget bill this week, but environmentalists say there is plenty of work to do on a final coal ash management bill before legislators wrap-up the session.

Grady McCallie, policy director for the NC Conservation Network, says both the House and Senate versions of the coal ash bill (now in conference committee) are weaker than current law.

Click below to hear McCallie discuss the shortcomings in Senate Bill 729, and click here to hear his full 10 minute radio interview with Chris Fitzsimon.

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A new poll by Public Policy Polling commissioned by the NC League of Conservation Voters finds that 76% of voters surveyed think the General Assembly should require all coal ash ponds to be removed from waterways. Just 16% think they should be allowed to be capped and left in place.

Fifty-eight percent of those polled says they consider the environment be ‘very important’ in determining how they will vote in the next election.

To view the crosstabs on that poll, click here.

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Coal AshSteve Harrison over at Blue NC has a good catch today in a post entitled “90% of coal ash remains in Dan River after Duke ‘completes’ cleanup.”

As Steve notes:

If this is what they call “success,” one would hate to see them fail:

“Since the operation began on May 6, approximately 2,500 tons of coal ash and river sediment have been removed from this location. Crews and equipment were staged at Abreu-Grogan Park in Danville for the past three months.

The company previously completed removal of ash and sediment from water treatment facilities in Danville and South Boston, as well as from locations in the river at the Dan River Steam Station and Town Creek, two miles downstream from the plant. More than 500 tons of coal ash and river sediment were removed from these areas.”

Do the math. A low-end estimate on the spill had some 39,000 tons of ash released, and this combined 3,000 tons removed included an unknown quantity of non-ash sediment. What’s left in the river could be closer to 95%. And the General Assembly wants to give Duke Energy “more flexibility” in the cleanup/relocation of all the other coal ash ponds?

The story to which the post links (in Dredging Today) goes on to make clear that Duke is really going all out with the cleanup efforts: Read More

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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.

Read More

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Coal AshThe North Carolina House passed a weakened version of the already inadequate Senate coal ash plan today and environmental experts quickly labeled the legislation as wholly inadequate.

Here’s the rather measured statement from the folks at the NC Sierra Club:

“After weeks of expectation and speculation, the House missed the opportunity to build on the Senate’s good start and to address key shortcomings in the legislation. Under Speaker Tillis’ leadership, the House failed to make the final set of changes needed to give North Carolinians the protection they deserve from Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash.

There are no clear requirements in this legislation to ensure it does what it’s intended to do: remove the threat of coal ash to all our waters, and all our communities.

Not only does the bill fail to add protections missing from the Senate version of the bill, but it appears to undermine a recent court ruling stemming from a citizen suit that would require Duke Energy to immediately eliminate the source of its groundwater contamination.

North Carolinians’ right to clean water has been under threat by coal ash for decades. As lawmakers try to settle their differences on this bill in conference committee, communities are counting on them to protect their families and water.”

Meanwhile, activists at NC WARN — which has battled Duke Energy for years over myriad issues — were even more pointed: Read More

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Before leaving for the July 4th holiday, the NC House is expected to give final approval Thursday to a revised plan to clean-up North Carolina’s coal ash sites.

The legislation would require Duke Energy to remove the ash from four high-risk sites by 2019. Low-risk ponds would be targeted for closure by 2029.  Critics note the bill also would create an avenue for Duke to extend those deadlines, with the approval of the from the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Rep. Nathan Baskerville sought to amend the bill making it clear any clean-up costs would fall on Duke Energy, not its customers.

“Growing up, I was always taught that if you break it, you buy it,” said the Vance County Democrat. “There’s no doubt about it, Duke has broken it and now they have to pay. Period.”

Baskerville’s amendment was tabled.

Carteret County Rep. Pat McElraft told her colleagues that the state should take a step back and accept much of the blame for the current crisis, having granted Duke the permits for locating the ash ponds.

Final approval in the House on Thursday will send the bill back to the Senate for concurrence. To hear part of Wednesday’s House debate, click below.  Watch the full session at WRAL.com.
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