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Stories and features about North Carolina candidates, voters, and the politics of the 2014 mid-term elections. Polls are open across N.C. until 7:30 p.m. on election day, November 4.

NC Senate Tentatively Approves Plan To Close Duke Energy Coal Ash Ponds Within 15 Years

Duke Energy's coal burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

The North Carolina Senate has tentatively approved a plan to close Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds within 15 years.

The plan prioritizes four ponds that Republican lawmakers say are the biggest contamination threats. Duke would have to dig out all the ash and take it to dry storage.

Some Democrats want more ponds to be made high priority.

"Cape Fear has 525,000 people who drink water from beneath the intake ponds, and it has five dams," said Sen. Josh Stein, from Wake County, spoke yesterday before the Senate. "So under what criteria is Cape Fear not one of the top four?"  

But Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson County, says prioritizing more ponds isn’t necessary. He says the bill creates an independent commission that will determine which are high, medium or low risk.

"But if we're going to get into the petty bickering of mine's better than yours or yours is dangerous, then we're going to be here all night and not accomplish much," Apodaca replied.

The bill also calls for alternative uses for coal ash, other than burying them in landfills. Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a Republican from Concord, introduced an amendment calling for the Department of Transportation to look at how the coal ash could be used for concrete.

"What you see before you is our best effort at trying to encourage beneficial reuse in state projects along highways, in both vertical and horizontal structures."

Some Democrats unsuccessfully asked for a guarantee that ash would be removed from more ponds. However, the bill passed an initial vote in the Senate yesterday unanimously. It could be before a House committee as soon as tomorrow.

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