Governor responds to criticism on protecting the environment

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Gov. Pat McCrory was in Charlotte Friday for an economic announcement.  
 
Channel 9 asked him to answer to criticism that he has weakened the enforcement of environmental regulations in the state.
 
A New York Times article blasted McCrory and Republican legislators, accusing them of putting business and development ahead of protecting the environment.
 
The article alleges that McCrory's administration is forcing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to back off on enforcing environmental laws and violations.
 
The criticism comes in the wake of that massive coal ash spill near Eden last month.
 
McCrory said, "I can't speak for the New York Times. They have a history of not getting all the facts.”
 
McCrory said DENR was pushing for clean air and water as hard as the agency ever has.
 
"Our DENR under our administration has taken the most aggressive action in North Carolina history," the governor said.
 
Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins disagreed with that, but blames former Gov. Beverly Perdue equally in what he said is a lack of enforcement when it comes to polluters.
 
"Between DENR and Duke (Energy), they've taken a very stubborn and arrogant attitude toward this," Perkins said.
 
Last month a Duke Energy power plant accidentally dumped 39,000 tons of coal ash waste into the Dan River, which coated the river bottom for 70 miles.
 
Duke Energy officials said the water quality there is back to the way it was before the spill. But environmentalists said all of Duke Energy ponds for storing coal ash waste need to be moved.
 
"It's common sense. It's very simple," Perkins said. 
 
On Thursday, a Wake County judge seemed to agree, ordering immediate action but he didn't specify what that meant.  
 
Costs to move coal ash ponds would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Duke Energy officials said Friday that the utility is considering the judge's order.
 
"We'll see how long they want to drag this out in court, but we know we have the legal system on our side," Perkins said.
 
McCrory said DENR and Duke Energy are working together on plans for a long-term solution for the coal ash problem.
 
"I hope it's a plan that makes sure this doesn't ever happen again," he said.