Commentary

Environmental advocates call on McCrory to veto “Duke Energy Protection Act”

In case you missed it in all the hubbub surrounding the end of the legislative session, state lawmakers pushed through a coal ash “clean up” bill Thursday that has outraged environmental advocates and ought to anger anyone who cares about clean drinking water and corporate greed. This statement is from the state chapter of the Sierra Club:

Decision to Let Duke Energy Off the Hook in Governor McCrory’s Hands

Bill would allow Duke Energy to cap in place at half of its coal ash sites

The state House today concurred with a Senate bill that would allow Duke Energy to leave coal ash pits in place and cap them under some circumstances instead of requiring them to be fully cleaned up and the ash removed. The bill first appeared on Tuesday of this week. It moved through both legislative chambers without any opportunity for public comment and now goes to Governor McCrory, who is expected to sign it.

Molly Diggins, State Director of the NC Sierra Club, issued the following statement on the measure:

“Governor McCrory started his term in office by shielding Duke Energy from the consequences of its unsafe disposal practices by pre-empting citizen lawsuits. Will Governor McCrory now end this term in office by signing a bill that lets Duke Energy off the hook once again from fully cleaning up its coal ash pits?”

“Every one of Duke Energy’s coal ash sites is contaminating groundwater, according to the McCrory administration’s own Department of Environmental Quality. And DEQ’s own professional staff have called for a full clean-up of all coal ash sites.  But this measure requires the seven remaining sites to be treated as low risk, despite any ongoing threat to groundwater or surface water. ”

“Hundreds of North Carolina residents attended public hearings earlier this year to advocate for a full cleanup of Duke Energy’s dangerous coal ash. We call on Governor McCrory to listen to their concerns and to veto this giveaway to Duke Energy.”

Background on the bill:

H 630 would overturn the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) current coal ash classifications for Duke Energy’s sites. These risk classifications would require full excavation and removal of the ash. Instead, at all seven remaining sites where full excavation is not required by law or the court, Duke Energy could leave the ash in place. Although DEQ professional staff have previously rated these sites as high or intermediate risk, under H 630, the remaining seven sites would be rated low risk, without the requirement to consider ongoing surface and groundwater contamination. [Note: Duke would first have to provide water lines and address structural issues as otherwise required in the bill.]

Capping-in-place allows for the coal ash to be covered and left in its existing pits.  According to DEQ, currently every Duke Energy coal ash site is contaminating groundwater and surface water. Capping-in-place would not remove the source of the pollution.

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