Coal ash law delayed in General Assembly

by: Alexa Ashwell Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

The state Senate struck down the House’s coal ash cleanup plan Thursday evening, essentially delaying any action on the issue until at least November.

When thousands of tons of toxic coal ash spilled from some of Duke Energy’s basins and into the Dan River six months ago, lawmakers vowed they would make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Representatives with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said they’re disappointed with the lack of legislation but remained optimistic Thursday evening.

“While we would like to see legislation we can clean this up without it and we can close some of those loopholes later,” said Drew Elliot, communications director for DENR.

The concern that remains is whether the toxic coal ash is getting into the water at Duke Energy’s 14 coal ash basins across the state including Charlotte’s drinking water source, Mountain Island Lake.

DENR has already ordered the company to come up with a plan to inspect groundwater near its plants by Sept. 26, as well as turn in a survey about any wells that could be contaminated by Oct. 14.

“We can make sure no one is drinking contaminated water. That’s our No. 1 priority,” said Elliot.

Gov. Pat McCrory is also putting pressure on the company by ordering it to come up with a plan to remove the coal ash by mid-November.

DENR said it’s looking for ways to not just store the coal ash but use it.

“We’re going to need site-specific solutions to these problems,” said Elliot. “We’re hoping to see some technological innovations, as well as industrial and perhaps agricultural applications. We can use this ash and help people and help industries. We should look for ways to use something that’s been a problem for so long."

North Carolina lawmakers are expected to close this session Friday.