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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.

NC Lawmakers At Odds With McCrory On Coal Ash Cleanup

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

State lawmakers are again wrangling with Governor Pat McCrory over coal ash cleanup.

The House has approved a bill reconstituting the coal ash management commission. Lawmakers organized this group once before. But McCrory sued fellow Republicans saying it usurped his power.

The state Supreme Court agreed, ruling it unconstitutional earlier this year. Now, lawmakers are again trying to pass a measure they say would move coal ash cleanup forward.

"The lawyers in the Speaker office, the lawyers in the Pro Tem office, the lawyers in our central office, have all said that this bill is constitutionally on a sound basis," said Republican Chuck McGrady, from Henderson County. "I really do think we’re making a mistake if we move off of what we decided – a hard decision we decided two years ago."

The bill also requires Duke Energy to provide permanent alternative water supplies to residents living in areas surrounding coal ash pits.

The proposal now goes to the Senate. Governor Pat McCrory has said he will veto the bill and again sue the general assembly for a bill he says violates separation of powers.

But some lawmakers, including Guilford County Democrat Pricey Harrison, say the proposal is a pragmatic approach.

"I think it’s impractical to think we were going to dig up all the coal ash ponds, and it’s logistically impossible for Duke Energy to even find the trucks to haul 120 million tons of coal ash," she said.

Jeff Tiberii is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Jeff joined WUNC in 2011. During his 20 years in public radio, he was Morning Edition Host at WFDD and WUNC’s Greensboro Bureau Chief and later, the Capitol Bureau Chief. Jeff has covered state and federal politics, produced the radio documentary “Right Turn,” launched a podcast, and was named North Carolina Radio Reporter of the Year four times.
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