One of the most knowledgeable environmental advocacy groups working on North Carolina’s coal ash dilemma — the state chapter of the Sierra Club — had mixed reviews for the new legislation approved by lawmakers yesterday:
NC Sierra Club Response to Final Passage of S 729, Coal Ash Management Act
The legislature today gave final approval to the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, a complex measure that for the first time regulates coal ash like other wastes but also undermines a court ruling that would have required immediate cleanup of coal ash.
Following the Dan River coal ash spill, revelations that coal ash pollution has contaminated rivers, lakes, streams and drinking water resulted in an unprecedented public demand for action. Duke Energy produces an estimated 1.2 million tons of coal ash a year in North Carolina. Currently, all coal ash sites have groundwater contamination and nearly all are releasing contaminants into rivers, lakes or reservoirs.
The bill will require Duke Energy to phase out wet ash handling. Duke’s outdated method of disposing of coal ash in ponds next to waterways has led to water contamination across the state. With the passage of this bill, for the first time all coal ash will be covered by North Carolina’s solid waste laws. Further, when coal ash is used as fill to build up land for large construction projects, measures like groundwater monitoring and liners will be required.
Unfortunately, final changes to the conference report intended to protect against ongoing groundwater pollution at ten sites do not go far enough to address a major issue that must be resolved to protect NC residents and communities.