Coal Ash Management Act of 2014

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. 
 
On August 20, 2014, the NC General Assembly passed S 729, the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014.
 
The bill requires 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 Duke’s outdated method of disposing of coal ash in ponds next to waterways has led to water contamination across the state.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.

Click here to read the statement issued by the NC Sierra Club after the passage of the bill.

For communities near coal ash pits, there's plenty of work ahead to make sure that the Coal Ash Commission makes sure that our drinking wawter is protected and every coal ash site that pollutes groundwater is cleaned up!  

And if you are looking for the news about the passage of the bill, here are the press clips from the day after the vote.  With this much attention, it's clear that coal ash is an an issue our volunteers will be working on for years to come.

Coal ash news clips from August 21, 2014:

Legislature passes coal ash bill; ends very long ‘short’ session (Raleigh News & Observer) -- [Note: this story ran on the front page with the headline 'Landmark coal ash bill passes'] - The state’s Coal Ash Management Act, described by advocates as the first of its kind, passed the state legislature with a broad majority on Wednesday, about six months after a corroded pipe spilled huge volumes of the gray, sludgy industrial byproduct into the Dan River. The measure passed the House 84-13 in the afternoon, and the Senate 38-2 a few hours later. About half the opposing votes in the House came from Triangle-area Democrats. The approvals were among the legislative bodies’ final actions before they passed adjournment measures for the session, sending the proposal to Gov. Pat McCrory.
 
House, Senate approve compromise coal ash bill (Charlotte Observer) - North Carolina’s legislature approved a landmark bill Wednesday that begins the end of the coal ash ponds that line the state’s rivers and lakes, if not their environmental legacy.  Just before ending their sessions, lawmakers revived a stalemated bill and enacted the nation’s most aggressive regulations on ash. The third-worst U.S. ash spill, by Duke Energy into the Dan River in February, motivated legislators.
 
Lawmakers Approve Plan To Manage Duke's Coal Ash Ponds (WUNC-FM) --  The General Assembly is sending Governor Pat McCrory a plan for Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds. It could become the first legislation in the country to try to mitigate the pollution from ashes left over from burning coal. To get an idea of why lawmakers were under pressure to take action, here are some images from a video Green Peace recorded in February: The group flew a helicopter over the Virginia-North Carolina line. You can see the Dan River flowing past the town of Eden. The river water is its typical brownish, greenish color, but as it meets a coal burning power plant a ribbon of gray sludge starts streaming into the water. That’s what it looks like when 39,000 tons of ash are spilling. Six months and dozens of meetings later, North Carolina lawmakers have a plan for this coal ash pond and 32 others like it. … The reaction from conservation groups was swift. The plan does not do enough, says Frank Holloman, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "If you stand back and look at this bill, you would have to say this is a bill where Duke won," Holloman says. “This bill could've been very simple. It did not have to be this long and convoluted. They could've simply said, 'If your coal ash contaminates ground water, it's got to be moved.' ”
 
Duke can pass coal ash costs to customers (WCNC-TV) -- As North Carolina's legislative leaders are congratulating themselves on the imminent passage of a coal ash cleanup bill, Democrats and environmentalists are warning of a coming consumer backlash since the bill would allow Duke to stick the ratepayers with future cleanup costs. Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins complains that the bill "lets Duke off the hook" for all cleanup costs except for Dan River, the site of a massive coal ash spill in February. Rep. Chuck McGrady, Republican of Hendersonville and the bill's sponsor, told fellow lawmakers from the floor that in his view Duke would still be financially responsible for any negligence. Left up in the air is whether that negligence extends to any of the other 13 coal-fired power plants which also have dumps, many of them leaking into groundwater.
 
Voters blame McCrory for coal ash response delays (USA Today/Suffolk University) – North Carolina voters hold Republican Gov. Pat McCrory responsible, 45%-34%, for delays in responding to a toxic coal ash spill from a Duke Energy power plant into the Dan River in February. Meanwhile, incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is clinging to a 2-point lead over Republican challenger and North Carolina General Assembly Speaker Thom Tillis, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of likely general-election voters. Hagan led Tillis 45 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent choosing Libertarian Sean Haugh, 5 percent undecided, and 1 percent refusing to state a choice. Hagan’s lead was 52 percent-34 percent among women, compared to Tillis, who led among men 52 percent-38 percent. (Full Results at: http://www.suffolk.edu/documents/SUPRC/8_20_2014_marginals.pdf) On key issues in N.C., those surveyed: Oppose fracking by 51%-32%. A majority say the state General Assembly should not permit the controversial process to extract natural gas using hydraulic fracturing;
 
NC legislators approve regulating toxic coal ash (AP) — North Carolina lawmakers Wednesday praised new legislation they say will regulate coal-ash pits and clean up decades of toxic waste generated by coal-burning electricity plants.
 
General Assembly sends compromise coal ash bill to the governor (WRAL-TV) -- The state House has passed a bill that would require an independent commission to oversee the cleanup of 33 coal ash ponds throughout North Carolina. State senators are expected to approve the measure later today.
 
Coal ash bill heads to N.C. governor for signature (Greensboro News & Record) -- If signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, the coal ash regulations would be the most extensive in the nation, legislators claim.
 
Environmentalists slam new coal ash bill (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Critics of compromise coal ash legislation agreed to by North Carolina House and Senate conferees faulted the measure Wednesday for allowing the toxic material to remain in place at most of Duke Energy’s leaking dumps. The legislation requires the removal of ash within five years from the utility’s Asheville plant and three other facilities, but would let the material be capped in place at 10 other plants if they are deemed “low risk” by a new commission.
http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/08/20/environmentalists-slam-new-coal-ash-bill/14340307/
 
NC House, Senate Pass Coal Ash Cleanup Bill (TWCN-TV) -- The coal ash clean up bill is now on its way to the governors' desk to be signed into law. The House passed the bill 83 to 14 Wednesday afternoon, and the Senate passed it later Wednesday evening.

 

 

Thu, Aug 21