Governor: Part of coal ash bill 'may be unconstitutional'

by: Blake Hanson Updated:

MOORESVILLE - While attending a charity event Saturday, Gov. Pat McCrory told Eyewitness News that he is concerned a piece of legislation that would impose restrictions on coal ash ponds might include an action that is unconstitutional.

The bill, which lawmakers passed Wednesday, would set a timeline for cleaning up the state's coal ash ponds. The House and Senate approved the legislation six months after a spill at a Duke Energy power plant near Eden coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge and ignited debate about the safety of 32 other coal ash dumps across the state.

McCrory said he is glad lawmakers took action on coal ash, but cautious about the establishment of an independent commission.

"There is one concern I've expressed and that is the formation of a commission that's appointed by politicians, which frankly have no accountability to anyone and I think may be unconstitutional," McCrory said.

The commission would include nine members with experience in public health, waste management and conservation. It would have the power to approve the risk-levels used to classify coal ash ponds. Depending on whether the dumps are classified as high-risk, intermediate-risk or low-risk, it would be cleaned up at a different rate.

"I'm still reviewing the constitutionality of that at this point in time and getting advice, comparing what the rules say and what our constitution allows," McCrory said.

Several environmental groups lambasted the bill, saying the Department of Natural Resources and political appointees were given too much power.

When asked, McCrory would not say whether he's made a decision on whether or not to sign the bill.

"I'm reviewing the bill right now and I'll be dealing with that within the next 30 days," he said.