Coal Ash

photo of the North Carolina Senate
Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC / Flickr

  After a prolonged legislative session marked by delayed talks and Republican infighting, the General Assembly has finished its work and adjourned for the year.

The short session dragged on as lawmakers struggled to compromise over key issues, including teacher pay and coal ash. Legislators managed to strike a last-minute deal on Wednesday that would work to remove coal ash from 33 ponds across the state.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

The North Carolina General Assembly is sending Governor Pat McCrory a plan for Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds. It could become the first legislation in the country to try to mitigate the pollution from ashes left over from burning coal.

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

Top Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly say they’ve agreed on a plan to manage Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds. The plan for Duke Energy's 33 ponds has been roughly six months in the making, but just weeks ago negotiations broke down between the senators and representatives who were writing it.

Gov. Pat McCrory
www.governor.state.nc.us

Governor Pat McCrory is responding to charges that he misstated when he sold his stock in Duke Energy. McCrory worked for the company for almost 30 years. 

Speaking to reporters after an education conference held by the North Carolina Chamber, the Governor faced a series of questions about when he sold the Duke stock that was part of his 401k.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

A few members of the North Carolina House of Representatives will be back in Raleigh for a skeleton session today, but no real business is expected to be conducted. Technically, they need to be there to keep the legislature in session. That’s because they couldn’t agree with their colleagues in the Senate on one of their main priorities this summer – what to do about 33 coal ash dumps around the state.

This story starts in February this year, and you might have seen it on national newscasts.

Photo: The North Carolina seal in front of the state legislative building
Jorge Valencia

Gov. Pat McCrory has before him an annual spending plan for North Carolina, setting aside money to give public school teachers their first significant pay raise since 2008 - while cutting from public health, childhood development and other programs. McCrory has said he will sign the bill, and lawmakers said they have at least two other major pieces of legislation they will address this year. 

Gov. Pat McCrory
www.governor.state.nc.us

Governor Pat McCrory says he approves of the legislature's spending plan for state and will sign the bill.

The Senate already passed the $21 billion budget bill today and the House will likely approve it Saturday morning.

Governor Pat McCrory touted the budget proposal at a press conference on Friday.

“We've got a 2.2 percent increase in the general fund budget with no tax increase, with teacher pay raises, no elimination of teachers assistants and we've kept the integrity of our Medicaid, I'm proud of it,” he said.

Photo: The Daily Show
Comedy Central

As North Carolina lawmakers are wrapping their “short” legislative session, which dragged on more than a month longer than they’d originally anticipated, they struck a deal on a plan to raise public school teacher pay. They also agreed to replace the state’s expiring credits for movie and television companies with a more modest grant package.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

  

The General Assembly’s budget proposal is headed to the state House after a late night in the Senate. 

Senators passed the $21 billion spending plan around 1:00 a.m. and then adjourned for the session. But they left some bills on the table, including a plan to clean up Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds and a proposal to overhaul Medicaid.

Guest host Phoebe Judge talks with WUNC capitol reporter Jorge Valencia and WUNC's education policy reporter, Reema Khrais, about the conclusion of the short session.

NC Legislative Building
Dave DeWitt

After a 15-hour day at the legislature, Senators voted this morning to pass the $21.3 billion state spending plan. 

Senators didn't leave the legislative building until about 1 a.m. They were determined to make a final vote on the budget and wrap up any loose ends before heading home. 

But they'll be back soon enough. They're expected to return in a couple of weeks to take up any possible vetoes from the Governor. Then, they'll be back in November to pick up at least two bills they didn't finish. 

Tourism is doing well along the Dan River in Rockingham County, a few miles upstream from the site of a massive coal ash spill in February.
Jeff Tiberii

Following a massive coal ash spill into the Dan River in February, The Department of Health and Human Services issued an advisory downstream from the site, recommending people stay out of the water. Now, after surface water and soil testing, state health officials say recreational use of the Dan River is safe.

 

It has now been almost six months since a Duke Energy storm water pipe ruptured near the Virginia border, sending 39,000 tons of potentially toxic material into the Dan River. Some of the effects have been marginal and others remain unknown.

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

The state House of Representatives has signed off on a plan to close and clean up Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds.

The ash in the ponds is a contamination threat to waterways. And Duke Energy says it could cost up to 10-billion dollars to remove all of it.

In a House debate today, Democratic leader Larry Hall asked who would pay for the clean up.

"The rate payers really should not be penalized further in this bill," Hall said."That's the big elephant in the room."

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

At the General Assembly, lawmakers are getting close to finalizing a bill outlining the future of Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds. Lawmakers have been looking into the situation since February, when 39,000 tons of ash leaked from one pond and coated the Dan River with gray sludge.

The issue of 100 million tons of coal ash in ponds across the state has been slowly growing over the past century.

Utility companies burned coal to generate electricity, cooled off the ashes by mixing them with water, and dumped them into unlined ponds.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

  

It’s a new fiscal year as of Tuesday, but the legislature has yet to reach an agreement on budget adjustments. 

The House and Senate are still at odds over how to spend money on education and Medicaid. 

Lawmakers are also trying to sort out a coal ash regulation bill, public records rules for charter schools, and higher penalties for prison inmates who get a hold of cell phones.

Aerial photo: Duke Energy's coal burning facility near Salisbury, N.C.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Members of a North Carolina House of Representatives committee are expected to debate on Wednesday a new proposal to prevent contamination from 33 coal ash ponds Duke Energy owns across the state.

The proposal, which was released to members of the House environment committee on Tuesday, would move a commission overseeing the cleanup under the oversight of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (under a previous proposal, the commission would have been independent) and grants the governor authority to appoint the chair of the nine-person body.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

North Carolina lawmakers say they want to break the impasse on a state budget this week. But those aren’t the only bills on their docket.

Leaders in the Senate and the House have been talking about Common Core and Coal Ash since they started meeting in May.

The Senate wants to consider keeping parts of Common Core, the national academic standards for public school students. The House wants to completely replace them.

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.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

  

The state Senate is pushing a proposal that would close all of Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds in North Carolina. 

The plan lays out a timeline for Duke Energy to close the ponds, adds more oversight positions, and puts some restrictions on rate increases. 

It is part of an ongoing discussion about new regulations for utilities that use the ponds since 39,000 tons of ash spilled into the Dan River earlier this year.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC capital reporter Jorge Valencia about the latest coal ash legislation.

Collapsed House Near Kingston Spill
Wikipedia

    

The coal ash spill in the Dan River earlier this year turned a public spotlight on the issue of coal ash disposal. The challenges around coal ash waste have existed in communities throughout the nation for decades.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

At the North Carolina General Assembly, key members of the Senate will take their first vote today on a coal ash proposal. Lawmakers have been grappling all year with possible contamination from 33 coal ash ponds Duke Energy has across the state.

The problem is not new. North Carolina has been accumulating coal ash for most of the past century. Power companies burn coal to generate electricity, cool off the remaining ash with water and then pour it into ponds and keep it there.

Photo: The North Carolina Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh
Jorge Valencia

North Carolina’s General Assembly leadership is expected to begin negotiations this week to reconcile two proposals for the state’s $21.1 billion budget, a legislation that touches many aspects of government, but has centered on how to give pay raises to public school teachers.

Photo: North Carolina's Old State Capitol building.
Soggy6 / Flickr

The North Carolina General Assembly is entering its fourth full week in session, and the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the central task of the season: the state’s budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Members of the North Carolina Senate took up the issue of coal ash clean up Thursday. They heard the first public presentation of how the governor wants to address possible contamination from coal ash ponds across the state.

But before we get into the governor’s plan, here's the story of Sherry Gobble and why coal ash might be a problem.

Triad News Update

May 20, 2014
The Dan River flows through Danville, VA 22 miles down stream from the site of a coal ash spill in Eden. Officials say treated water there remains safe to drink.
Jeff Tiberii

    

Two Republican lawmakers introduced a bill to the North Carolina Senate last week to cut back on the threat of coal ash pollution in North Carolina. 

The cleanup for the 2008 Tennessee coal ash disaster. Image taken March 2012.
Appalachian Voices / via Creative Commons/Flickr

The first piece of legislation leaders of the North Carolina Senate introduced in this summer’s legislative session looks at Duke Energy’s 33 coal ash ponds across the state.

That means that on Wednesday, their first day in session this year, the senate’s Republican leadership sent a clear signal that it’s a priority for them to resolve the state’s issue of toxic coal ash dumps. What they didn't send was a clear picture of how they want to resolve it.

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