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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.

New NC Laws On Coal Ash, Drones And Taxes Go Into Effect Today

Photo: A camera attached to a remote control airplane
Chris Goldberg
Flickr/Creative Commons

A series of laws passed by the General Assembly this summer will go into effect today, affecting areas of construction, pollution and privacy. The variety in legislation reflects the broad reach of the state House and Senate this year.

Coal Ash

Perhaps the most visible one addresses millions of tons of ashes left from burning coal for decades to generate electricity. It is now officially illegal to build or expand any coal ash ponds, although Duke Energy, which owns 33 coal ash ponds across the state, was already phasing out the use of ponds. The company is also required to manage pollution at the ponds within 15 years.

Gov. Pat McCrory has already named three of the nine members of the commission: Michael Jacobs, who teaches corporate governance and business and government at UNC-Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School, will be chairman; and Herbert Eckerlin, a professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering at N.C. State University, and Larry Cobb, a Durham lawyer and former Republican legislator who served in the state Utilities Commission, will be members.


The issue of unmanned aircraft, or drones, as they’re usually called, made its way to the North Carolina legislature this summer. Now, under a new law, a drone can’t be used for secret surveillance or to take pictures for mass circulation without the subjects’ permission. There are some exceptions for the police and for media organizations.

Construction and Taxes

One law increases enforcement on companies that excavate in areas where underground pipes or structures may be damaged. Another makes biodiesel subject to the motor fuels excise tax, and revokes a sales tax exemption on newspaper stands. And another makes it illegal to use drones for secret surveillance or to take photos for mass distribution.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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