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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.

Court Finds For McCrory In Case Against Moore, Berger

Dave DeWitt

The North Carolina Supreme Court has sided with Governor Pat McCrory in a case against leaders in the General Assembly.

The case stemmed from the Legislature’s creation of three commissions in 2014, including the Coal Ash Management Commission. Republican leadership in the House and Senate then appointed the majority of members to the commissions, prompting the Governor – also a Republican – to sue.

In finding for McCrory, a near unanimous Supreme Court agreed that the General Assembly unlawfully limited the Governor’s ability to execute the powers of the executive branch.

McCrory was joined in his lawsuit by former governors Jim Martin and Jim Hunt – a Republican and a Democrat, respectively.

"We appreciate the hard work of the Supreme Court to resolve a constitutional question that needed to be answered," Governor McCrory said in a statement. "I want to thank Governors Martin and Hunt for joining me in this action. We will work with the General Assembly to implement this decision as we together continue to make state government more efficient and accountable."

The law passed by the General Assembly also ordered the Coal Ash Management Commission to act independently of McCrory's environmental agencies.

The CAMC would have played an advisory role over Duke Energy’s 14 coal ash basins in North Carolina. McCrory formerly worked for Duke Energy for decades.

The status of the current CAMC is unclear, and will likely be considered by the General Assembly in the upcoming short session.

“While we are disappointed, we respect the court's responsibility to resolve these Constitutional questions and will carefully review the ruling and determine the next steps necessary to comply," said President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, in a joint statement.

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