State Senate Republican leaders lost no time in filing a coal ash regulation bill on the opening day of the General Assembly’s short session Wednesday.
The bill, sponsored by Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden and Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville, is the plan that Gov. Pat McCrory proposed last month. It would gradually close some coal ash storage basins, depending on individual conditions.
Apodaca said that would be a starting point for legislators to develop a final bill regulating coal ash
The bill sets aside money to pay for it: $1.4 million to fund 19 permanent positions and associated costs to carry out the regulatory law.
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It spells out a timetable for closing the Riverbend, Asheville, Dan River and Sutton plants.
Among other provisions, it would impose a moratorium on how coal ash material is used in structural fill products until rules are established to ensure public health.
The immediate introduction of the bill by Senate leadership signals that this is a high-priority issue that will become law fairly quickly, once it clears the General Assembly and is signed by the governor. However, environmental groups and Democrats have said a coal-ash bill should go farther by requiring Duke Energy to close all of its storage ponds and move the material into lined and covered sites away from rivers.
The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 729, drew immediate criticism from environmentalists. McCroy issued a statement saying he looked forward to working on it with the legislature.