UPDATE: NC House passes coal ash bill, Senate expected to follow - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Coal ash bill approved by House & Senate, headed to Governor's desk

NC lawmakers passed a bill mandating cleanup of all Duke Energy coal ash ponds by the year 2029. NC lawmakers passed a bill mandating cleanup of all Duke Energy coal ash ponds by the year 2029.
RALEIGH, NC (WECT) -

House and Senate lawmakers in Raleigh passed a sweeping coal ash management bill Wednesday, and sent it to Governor Pat McCrory's desk for his signature.

GOP leaders announced Tuesday night they had reached a compromise deal on implementing new coal ash regulations, and forcing Duke Energy to close all 33 of its coal ash ponds across North Carolina.

According to a news release sent by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, "Senate Bill 729 sets a firm 15-year timetable for dewatering and closing all unlined coal ash ponds in North Carolina and eliminates the practice of wet ash disposal."

The plan requires Duke Energy to close ponds at four sites, Dan River, Asheville, Riverbend and the Sutton Plant in New Hanover County, no later than 2019. All other coal ash ponds would be required to close by 2029.

The news release also said the compromise plan:

  • Mandates that all future coal ash disposal must be managed in new or existing lined landfills with extensive groundwater monitoring. It also requires pond owners to divert stormwater away from ash ponds and phase out the disposal of wet ash – the sludge that spilled into the Dan River – within five years. And it immediately makes it illegal to construct or expand wet coal ash ponds statewide. 
  • Forms a new, independent and specialized Coal Ash Management Commission to review and approve risk classifications and closure plans proposed by owners of coal ash ponds and DENR. The commission will make policy recommendations to the General Assembly to ensure efficient and safe coal ash management statewide. It will consist of nine people with experience in areas such as public health, waste management and conservation.
  • Creates up to 30 new positions for the regulation, mitigation and oversight of coal ash management operations – 25 at DENR and 5 staff for the commission. These regulatory positions, along with the commission's operating expenses, will be funded by utilities with coal ash ponds and cannot be passed on to consumers.
  • Keeps and expands on many of the governor's recommendations, including:
    • Strengthening regulations on the use of coal ash as structural fill.
    • Requiring utilities to assess and correct existing and future contamination of ground, surface and drinking water, with oversight through DENR.
    • Strengthening dam inspection laws, by requiring more frequent inspections and creation of Emergency Action Plans.
  • Bans utility companies from recovering costs for the damage caused by coal ash spills, including associated civil or criminal fines.
  • Requires utilities to look at markets for innovative commercial uses of coal ash and study technology that could be used to more effectively manage coal ash. And it directs the commission, DOT and other agencies to study ways to recycle coal ash through beneficial use projects.

To read the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, click here: http://bit.ly/1uXrhUH.

The House and Senate each adjourned their sessions shortly after voting on the coal ash bill. Unless Gov. McCrory calls them back for a special session, lawmakers have finished their work until 2015.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.

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