by: Erica Bryant Updated:
NORTH CAROLINA - A state Senate committee unanimously approved a plan Tuesday that forces Duke Energy to close its coal ash ponds across North Carolina.
Under the timetable, the highest risk sites would be shut down in the next five years, and all sites within the next 15 years.
This bill also guarantees the cost of the cleanup will not be passed on to taxpayers.
“I think it is a positive first step to make sure we protect our waterways and drinking water,” said Sen. Joel Ford.
Ford said this bill goes a long way towards making sure a spill like the one that happened along the Dan River does not happen again. The bill would shut down 33 sites within 14 years.
Environmentalists said if coal ash is allowed to stay anywhere near a water source it is unacceptable.
“It leaves open possibility for capping it and leaving it in place, where it could have inevitable problems like what we saw at the Dan River,” said Sam Perkins, the Catawba riverkeeper.
Perkins said the legislation has too many loopholes, and he is concerned the coach ash would not have to be lined, which would prevent leaking.
Ford said that’s not true.
“This will be regulated and monitors and additional regulators will be hired to assure the compliance with this new legislation,” Ford said.
Perkins said this bill still does not do enough to protect drinking water.
“Truthfully all 14 sites sit waterfront and have documented problems, leaks, and because they sit waterfront, so they absolutely (have to) go,” Perkins said.
Ford said he anticipates the bill will go before the full Senate for a vote before the end of this week, then it will go to the house for a vote.