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Coal ash is the waste that remains when coal is burned. It is usually collected in a dump, known as a pond. North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.Many see potential complications because North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years.

Coal Ash Commission: Cost Will Be Felt By All

Dave DeWitt

The North Carolina Coal Ash Commission has begun the process of creating rules and regulations to manage the cleanup of Duke Energy’s 32 coal ash ponds.

The Commission has a huge job. Among other things, Commission Chair Michael Jacobs made it clear that cost will be a consideration.

“To the extent that cleanup costs are passed on to the residents and businesses of North Carolina through higher power rates, everyone who uses power will share the expense,” Jacobs said.

Duke Energy has said it would cost $10 billion to move coal ash from all sites.

'It took 80 years to produce the current coal ash problem. It will be impossible to solve it overnight.'

The Commission’s work also will not be done quickly. Four sites are currently classified for closure by 2019. The Commission will decide the closure rules and classifications for the others.

“It took 80 years to produce the current coal ash problem,” said Jacobs. “It will be impossible to solve it overnight. There are tradeoffs that will need to be made between speed, effectiveness, safety, and cost. All these factors are important.”

The Commission also begins its work under a cloud. On Thursday, Governor Pat McCrory sued fellow Republican leaders in the Legislature over its creation of the CMAC and others. He argues the General Assembly overstepped its authority in creating the commissions.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Supervising Editor for Politics and Education. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.
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